Monday, February 19, 2018
Business

Enterprise Florida marketing chief Joe Hice leaves diminished state agency to join USF

Joe Hice, a marketing executive with deep roots in the Tampa Bay business community, is leaving his job next month as the head of marketing for the state's chief job recruiting organization, Enterprise Florida. He is expected to join the University of South Florida as chief marketing officer for the USF system that includes the Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota/Manatee schools.

"Very excited to be coming 'home' and working for USF," Hice said Thursday afternoon.

Hice played a big role in launching Enterprise Florida's fresh ad campaign last year anchored by the tag line "The Future is Here" and initially backed by a $10 million advertising budget.

RELATED COVERAGE: Florida: The Future Is Here slogan is unveiled as part of state's new business branding campaign.

The new "Future Is Here" effort, intended to make Florida a more forward thinking state in the eyes of Corporate America, has also faced political hurdles since the Florida Legislature opted in early 2017 to gut most of the economic development agency's budget and mandate. Now Enterprise Florida expects a smaller $3 million marketing plan for this fiscal year that will reduce national newspaper ads and limit what the agency does at Major League Baseball spring-training games and with NASCAR.

The Legislature created an $85 million funding pool for regional business-recruitment efforts called the "Florida Job Growth Grant Fund." That came during a special session after House leaders had already pushed to eliminate Enterprise Florida, citing its role in "corporate welfare." While the Senate refused to go along with the elimination, lawmakers eventually settled on a $16 million budget for the agency, down from $23.5 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30.

To handle the cut, the marketing program took the biggest hit, falling from what had been $10 million a year, of which $8.5 million came from the state.

RELATED COVERAGE: When Legislature faltered, Gov. Rick Scott took advantage.

"Just realize, our $3 million budget is going up against a $140 million budget from New York, a $110 million budget from California, a $50 million budget from Texas and a $30 million budget from Georgia," Hice said.

Prior to joining Enterprise Florida in late 2015, Hice had worked for Tampa's Moffitt Cancer Center, as well as the University of Florida, North Carolina State University, Harley-Davidson Motor Co. and Segway Inc. He managed UF's Gator Nation campaign and Segway's "Get Moving" campaign. Most recently, he served as a founding partner at Well Strategics, a Tampa public relations firm whose clients include BayCare Health System and Publix Super Markets.

Hice said Enterprise Florida is waiting for the 2018 spring training schedule to determine what cities, and thus what visiting executives, to focus on for the Grapefruit League games. Also, while the intent is to keep up appearances at the Daytona 500, Enterprise Florida would like to be able to end its ties at the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

The new campaign was considered long overdue to replace the public-private group's outdated and criticized "Florida. The Perfect Climate for Business" pitch that featured people wearing orange ties. Some leading women in the area business community said they were alienated by the orange tie campaign.

Hice said the agency, which has faced years of downsizing, is setting aside $400,000 for mostly digital ads with national newspapers, such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, down from more than $1 million a year. Another $400,000 is slated for marketing partnerships with Florida's rural counties, which could double that pot. And $350,000 is to be targeted through airline clubs and with fixed-base operators at regional airports, where corporate executives depart and arrive in private planes.

Enterprise Florida's marketing team will continue working with St. John & Partners, the Jacksonville firm that helped create the "Future Is Here" branding campaign.

Information from the News Service of Florida was used in this story.

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