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Florida job-recruitment chief Adams undeterred

John Adams, president of Enterprise Florida, the state's economic development arm, is an unflappable cheerleader for the state's business recruitment offensive.

"I'm in the optimism business," Adams declared Thursday to his board of directors at its quarterly meeting in Orlando. But even the effervescent Adams had to flap extra hard in the face of some sour numbers coming out of his agency.

Juggling a budget shortfall of more than $1-million, Enterprise announced it was eliminating nine jobs, scrapping five international trade missions, closing offices in Brazil and Taiwan and trimming its $1.6-million marketing budget by $200,000.

Enterprise also revealed it had reached only 50 percent of its job-recruitment goal of 26,000 and 60 percent of its business investment goals for 2007-08.

This year's double budgetary blow — up to $1.6-million clipped from Enterprise's operating funds and $300-million in business incentives zeroed out by the state Legislature — promises to haunt the agency and raises questions of whether Florida can compete with other states seeking to recruit the same companies.

"When you couple these reductions with reductions at the local level, there's going to be significant impact," said Gene Gray, Hillsborough County's economic development director and a member of Enterprise's board. "My hunch is it's going to be even worse next year."

But Adams was having none of the negativity. The jobs shortfall was based on heady projections made during the economic boom a couple of years ago, he said.

"They threw a dart on the wall and studied the trend line," Adams said. "Coming up a little bit short is a home run when you consider how we measure up against other states."

What about closing the office in Brazil, Florida's No. 1 export partner? Brazil's a mature market, Adams said, and trade will win out regardless.

Adams distilled the state's economic woes into two categories: the housing slump and the credit crunch. Earlier in the meeting, University of Central Florida economist Sean Snaith predicted strong Florida growth wouldn't resume until 2010.

"Very important: The sky's not falling," said Adams, who called himself a "glass three-quarters full" person. "All these companies we're bringing in. They looking for engineers. They're looking for scientists.

James Thorner can be reached at thorner@sptimes.com.

Enterprise gains

Enterprise had some notable triumphs in the past 12 months, an overall downbeat period for Florida business. Not least of them was Brazilian aircraft maker Embraer's decision to open a $51-million plant employing 200 in Melbourne. Florida international trade registered a record $115-billion, and the agency takes credit for more than 13,000 jobs paying an average of $61,000 the past two years.

Florida job-recruitment chief Adams undeterred 06/12/08 [Last modified: Thursday, June 19, 2008 9:51am]
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