Sunday, June 17, 2018
Business

After 16 years, $80 million, Enterprise Florida delivers just 20,000 jobs to Tampa Bay

For the past 16 years, more than $80 million in state incentives backed by taxpayer money helped recruit and subsidize companies creating nearly 20,000 jobs in the Tampa Bay area.

The cost of those jobs varies wildly by business and in each county. Those differences reflect the higher price tag that can be required to attract certain types of coveted firms that bring higher-paying jobs to Florida, as well as the premiums required to lure businesses to certain counties.

In more than 200 deals since 1996 by Enterprise Florida in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties, the largest sum handed over to an avidly sought firm is $19.6 million to California's elite research firm SRI International. In 2009 SRI opened a marine research facility in downtown St. Petersburg. The number of SRI jobs documented by the state so far: 86.

In Hillsborough, the greatest number of jobs created by state incentives is 1,395 by Chase Bank Card Services in a 1997 deal. The bank received state funds of $4.7 million. The H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center received the richest incentive deal in the county in 2007 valued at $15.5 million to encourage both the establishment of its for-profit M2Gen subsidiary and the potential attraction of related biotech firms. Jobs documented so far: 155.

Details of these and other deals by Enterprise Florida, the state's job recruiting arm, are contained in a database updated this month by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. These figures reflect incentives provided by the state and do not include any additional county, city or other local incentives that may be attached to sweeten some deals. Incentives typically are handed out once a business creates a promised number of jobs and maintains those positions for at least one year, usually longer.

The state data offer some regional insights. Hillsborough dominates the Tampa Bay area with 14,000 jobs from 99 of the 210 incentive deals. The state's cost per job actually created in Hillsborough: $3,796.

While Pinellas attracted nearly as many deals, they were smaller and produced only 5,525 jobs. That reflects the challenge facing Florida's most densely populated county when competing to recruit bigger companies seeking scarce chunks of larger acreage. The state's cost per job actually created in Pinellas: $5,597.

Pasco cut just 14 deals with state incentives. Only three of those businesses generated enough jobs, a combined 79, to receive a portion of the state funds committed to them. The state's cost per job actually created in Pasco: $1,699.

And Hernando landed eight deals with 35 jobs. Sign manufacturer Accuform was recruited last year with $50,000 and has received about half that sum, the DEO says. The state's cost per job in this county: $707.

In many of these subsidized deals, the state may still make available additional incentives if and when a business generates more jobs. Those changes will be reflected in upcoming updates supplied by the DEO.

The statewide database shows that 1,254 companies have taken advantage of state incentives since 1996. The firms promised the largest state incentives are medical and biotech firms and include $155 million to the Burnham Institute in Orlando, $94 million to the Max Planck Institute in Palm Beach County and $80 million to the University of Miami (despite already being based in Florida) for life science research.

Many businesses offered state incentives never received any funds because they did not deliver on the number of jobs originally promised.

State lawmakers in 1992 formed Enterprise Florida to help create 200,000 higher-paying, high-tech jobs by 2005. Eight years past that deadline, Enterprise Florida remains less than halfway to meeting its jobs goal.

Still, Gov. Rick Scott and Enterprise Florida want to more than double the available pool of economic development incentives to $278 million from $111 million.

That subject is a sore one with critics of Enterprise Florida.

"Floridians have entrusted Enterprise Florida with significant public resources to deliver high quality job creation results, yet the organization has failed to accomplish its goals," says Dan Krassner, executive director in Tallahassee of a recently formed research and government watchdog group called Integrity Florida. "Floridians need to see independent and credible evidence that the Enterprise Florida incentives strategy has a net benefit to taxpayers."

Toward that end, some Florida lawmakers are pushing to reform the state's economic incentive programs. Measures would require greater transparency about the tax breaks companies have received to create jobs and shrink some that don't work. Last week, a Senate panel distilled several economic development bills that would require all the assorted tax incentives, rebate and credit programs to undergo more economic review every three years.

That goal of accountability is commendable but may prove elusive. Recruiting companies with taxpayer funds is a booming — perhaps "cutthroat" is the better word — business played aggressively nationwide by many states. And by many of their political leaders.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Your barista is a robot. Should it be friendly?

Your barista is a robot. Should it be friendly?

SAN FRANCISCO - The cold, steely arm of Fernando the Barista swirled the foam of my matcha latte, set it down gently, and waved goodbye from inside a glass case. San Francisco, 2018. Where you can get robot pizza and robot salad, and now, a robot mat...
Published: 06/16/18
Extending Albert Whitted’s runway could help Innovation District take off

Extending Albert Whitted’s runway could help Innovation District take off

ST. PETERSBURG — Albert Whitted Airport wants to extend its main runway. But what would benefit the airport could also benefit the St. Pete Innovation District.Moving the runway would ease building restrictions around the airport, allowing the Univer...
Published: 06/15/18
Updated: 06/16/18
Florida’s unemployment rate drops to 3.8 percent

Florida’s unemployment rate drops to 3.8 percent

Just when it seemed like Florida’s unemployment rate couldn’t get lower, it did. According to the state figures out Friday, Florida’s jobless rate dipped to a near 18-year low of 3.8 percent in May after holding steady at 3.9 percen...
Published: 06/15/18
St. Petersburg home becomes finalist in HGTV contest

St. Petersburg home becomes finalist in HGTV contest

ST. PETERSBURG — A house in St. Petersburg’s Old Northeast is a finalist in HGTV’s Ultimate House Hunt contest. Built in 2007 in the Mission Revival style, the 4,000-square-foot home a block from Coffee Pot Bayou is among 12 nationwide in the "curb a...
Published: 06/15/18
Florida’s first not-for-profit coding school is opening in St. Petersburg

Florida’s first not-for-profit coding school is opening in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — Filling in a hole that was left by The Iron Yard’s exodus last year, a new computer coding school will open its doors to its first class in downtown St. Petersburg on July 23.The Academy at Suncoast Developers Guild will operate thro...
Published: 06/15/18
Tampa-based Robbins Property Associates pays $43-million for Boynton Beach apartment community

Tampa-based Robbins Property Associates pays $43-million for Boynton Beach apartment community

Tampa-based Robbins Property Associates, has bought Aventine at Boyton Beach, a 216-unit apartment community, for $43 million.Aventine, garden-style apartments that are 95 percent occupied, will be renovated and renamed "Verona at Boynton Beach."It i...
Published: 06/15/18
Florida craft beer guild: Big Beer is pushing us out of Publix

Florida craft beer guild: Big Beer is pushing us out of Publix

The national battle between Big Beer and local craft breweries is playing out on the shelves of your neighborhood Publix — and some favorite Florida brewmakers are losing.The guild that represents Florida brewers says at least 12 small breweries have...
Published: 06/15/18
Accused of racial profiling, Lowe’s ends policy of checking customer receipts as they leave

Accused of racial profiling, Lowe’s ends policy of checking customer receipts as they leave

Memorial Day weekend was supposed to bring three productive days of home improvement for Will Mega, a dean at a North Philadelphia charter school.He’d go to two Lowe’s locations near his home in Philadelphia’s Wynnefield neighborhood for a grill and ...
Published: 06/15/18
McDonald’s to test alternatives to plastic straws in U.S.

McDonald’s to test alternatives to plastic straws in U.S.

NEW YORK — McDonald’s said Friday it will switch to paper straws at all its locations in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and test an alternative to plastic ones in some of its U.S. restaurants later this year.The burger chain and other fast-food comp...
Published: 06/15/18
Strange brew? Tampa Bay group hopes to grow hops and medical marijuana in the same spot

Strange brew? Tampa Bay group hopes to grow hops and medical marijuana in the same spot

ST. PETERSBURG --- Among topics that stir passionate interest, two that rank high are medical marijuana and craft beers.A group of Tampa Bay entrepreneurs has ambitious plans to profit from both.They are leasing a vast warehouse space in St. Petersbu...
Published: 06/15/18