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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

CFO, senator question 'gardening' proposal



The $10-million "economic gardening" proposal by Gov. Charlie Crist's administration to help small businesses is coming under fire from Democrats and Republicans alike. The state's chief financial officer, Democrat Alex Sink, dismissed the program as "kind of meaningless."

Legislation awaiting final passage (SB 38A) would set up a $10-million business loan pilot program in Crist's Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development. Loans of up to $250,000 would be available to small businesses that meet specified criteria and create new jobs.

"It's a small amount of money. The concept is good but it's going to help, what, 35 or so small businesses?" Sink said. "It's really kind of meaningless."

The loan program may have other problems, following a report in The Palm Beach Post that Steve Quello, a Winter Park business consultant who worked closely with OTTED's Dale Brill to create the proposal is also interested in applying for state money to run it.

Sen. Don Gaetz, a Niceville Republican who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Florida's Economy, told the Post : "We can't afford to have people look at what we're doing and just instinctively grab their noses. If ever public officials have to be conscious of perception, it's now."

When Crist was asked if Quello should be bidding to run a program after he helped write create, the governor said: "I believe in open bidding and an open process and transparency, and so long as there's an open bidding, an open process and transparency, may it go to the best person."


[Last modified: Tuesday, September 14, 2010 3:13pm]


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