VALPARAISO — Gov.-elect Rick Scott met with defense contractors and military leaders Monday as he kicked off a five-day, 10-city tour of the state's major job producers.
"This is the beginning of a complete change in how Florida is run," Scott said. "We like business people and we're going to grow this state."
Scott is touring some of the state's top industries as he prepares to make good on a promise to add 700,000 jobs in seven years. Scott's plan is to reduce taxes and regulations on businesses, which could use the savings to increase payroll.
He takes office Jan. 4.
The industries expected to benefit from Scott are paying for the governor-elect's jobs tour, which includes stops in Tampa, Miami and Fort Lauderdale later in the week. Scott's transition team did not disclose how much was raised, but said the money was coming from such groups as the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida. The tour was expected to cost more than $100,000.
The Naples businessman started the tour in the Panhandle, meeting with about 20 defense contractors, including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, L-3 Communications and InDyne Corp., at the University of Florida Research and Engineering Education Facility in Shalimar. He then met with military leaders at Eglin Air Force Base.
The media were not invited into either meeting. Press was also barred from watching Scott tape a Web video at the at the Air Force Armament Museum.
An out-of-state production crew, the California-based Intuitive Technology Solutions, is following Scott on the jobs tour to film clips for his transition Web site.
At a news conference at the museum after the meetings, Scott noted that the military accounts for about 10 percent of Florida's economy.
"We want to make sure we're always thought of as a very military-friendly state," Scott said.
Kay Rasmussen of the Okaloosa County Economic Development Council, was among those who met with Scott and the defense contractors. She said Scott asked questions such as "What do you need from me?" and "What can I do?"
"It was a get-acquainted meeting," Rasmussen said. "I am very impressed by his initiative to come to this area to find out how he can help us."
At Eglin, Scott met for about 90 minutes with base commanders from across the state.
"He listened mostly," said Maj. Gen. Emmett Titshaw Jr., who controls the Florida National Guard as the state's adjutant general.
He said Scott was asked to find jobs for 2,400 troops returning from overseas duty this month.
"Everyone came out of that meeting with a very positive feeling about how engaged this governor will be with the military," Titshaw said.
Scott's tour this week will include visits with industry leaders in technology, aerospace, agriculture, manufacturing, international trade, tourism and health care. He's particularly interested in learning specific ways to ease regulations to promote business growth.
One sector of Florida's economy not included on Scott's job's tour: the 1.1 million government jobs that account for about 15 percent of the state's workforce.
Scott has no visit scheduled for Tallahassee, where lawmakers on Monday opened their first week of committee meetings in preparation for the spring legislative session.
Janet Zink can be reached at email@example.com or (850) 224-7263.