Rick Scott's troubled jobs agency taps former Tampa rep as new leader
TALLAHASSEE — There is a new leader for the agency Gov. Rick Scott has most relied on to achieve his job creation campaign promises, but turmoil under the previous director still isn’t quite over.
Enterprise Florida agreed on Wednesday — with Scott in attendance during the entire two-hour meeting — to hire former Tampa state Rep. Chris Hart IV to run the embattled quasi-governmental agency that oversees the recruiting of businesses to relocate to Florida.
Hart, 48, has run the state's job training development agency, CareerSource Florida under Scott and prior to that he was the interim director of the Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development under former Gov. Charlie Crist from Jan. 2010 to early 2011. A Republican, he was in the Florida Legislature from 1998 to 2002.
"I'd like to thank you for inviting me to be apart of this grand adventure with all of you," Hart told Enterprise Florida board members at a meeting in Miramar Beach in Northwest Florida. "What better place than Enterprise Florida to help our fellow Floridians realize their hopes and their dreams and their aspirations."
Enterprise Florida board members are touting Hart's past as a state legislator as a sign that the agency will work better with the Florida Legislature, which gutted Scott's job incentives programs last year by refusing to give Scott any of the $250 million he requested. Incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Pasco County, has declared the incentive program as "corporate welfare" that conflict with his view of government's proper role.
Hart will take over an Enterprise Florida that is still paying for issues left over from former CEO Bill Johnson. Enterprise Florida announced this week it had spent $107,000 since June on an outside accounting and management firm that specializes in taking on "distressed situations" and "helps clean things up." Another $10,000 might still need to go to that company, CFO Strategic Partners in Orlando, before they complete their task, said Rodney Ownby, vice president of accounting and finance at Enterprise Florida.