Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn endorses Rick Scott’s proposed Enterprise Florida expansion
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn on Monday supported Gov. Rick Scott’s proposal to create a $250 million Enterprise Florida Fund to boost efforts to recruit companies to Florida.
It is the biggest mayoral endorsement yet of an economic development proposal Scott is trying to sell to the Legislature. Buckhorn not only leads Florida’s third largest city but has consistently welcomed Scott’s job recruitment efforts. And he’s a prominent Democrat who is contemplating running for governor himself in 2018.
“Enterprise Florida is a valuable resource to Tampa and their efforts have paid off for our city through the creation of well-paying jobs brought by respected employers such as Johnson & Johnson, Bristol Myers Squibb, Ashley Furniture and others,” Buckhorn said in announcing his support. “The strong partnerships between Enterprise Florida, the city of Tampa, and the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation are key factors in how Tampa continues to lead the state in job creation.”
Scott proposed the fund in October, saying Florida’s existing job recruitment efforts were underfunded, while states such as New York and Texas had budgeted $150 million and $90 million, respectively, for corporate relocation incentives.
Scott asked the Legislature for $85 million for incentive programs for this year, but the Legislature cut that in half during its session this spring. In the Senate, where the state’s corporate relocation efforts have come in for harsh criticism, analysts say only about 10 percent of money appropriated for incentive programs has been paid to employers. Most is earmarked for several hundred deals for jobs that haven’t been created.
To compete with Texas, which Scott said was Florida’s No. 1 competitor for new jobs, Scott proposes to phase out the state’s existing Quick Action Closing Fund and replace it with a new Enterprise Florida Fund. For a relocation project to qualify for state aid, Florida would have to recoup its incentive money within 10 years, plus get a 10 percent rate of return per year.
Since making his proposal, Scott has worked to recruit mayors to help encourage the Legislature to back the proposal.
Before Buckhorn, Scott had picked up the support of Fort Myers Mayor Randall P. Henderson Jr., Apalachicola Mayor Van Johnson, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Rebeca Sosa, and, according to Politico Florida, Hiahleah Mayor Carlos Hernandez (who Politico reported was mistakenly identified as Miami’s mayor in an initial release from the governor’s office).