Saturday, November 18, 2017
Business

Gov. Rick Scott visits Tampa to defend economic incentives, tourism programs

RECOMMENDED READING


TAMPA — Less than a week after a Florida House committee voted to kill the state's job incentives program and tourism marketing agency, Gov. Rick Scott rallied local tourism and economic development leaders in Tampa Bay to help fight back.

While Scott's rallying cries were well supported by the many in the hospitality and economic development communities in Tampa Bay who showed up to listen Monday, his message did not do much to soothe the fears many of them have about a future without Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida.

"Now is the time to call your representatives and senators and tell them how you feel," Scott said to several dozen people who participated in a round table discussion at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa. "I can veto a bill, but if they put no funding forward (for Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida), I can't help."

Previous coverage: Rebuffing Rick Scott, House Republicans vote to slash marketing, incentives

A few in the crowd wore blue T-shirts that said "fighting for jobs in FL." A handful of others had signs that read "tourism matters" and other supportive slogans.

Many of Tampa Bay's industry leaders spoke in support of saving the two agencies, including Port Tampa Bay CEO Paul Anderson, and Maryann Ferenc, owner of the Tampa restaurant Mise en Place and the vice chair of the board of directors for Visit Florida.

"It took years for Florida to build the reputation it has for corporate site selection," said Craig Richard, the CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. "That's partly what drew me to this job. I've worked in economic development in five states and never heard of anyone doing away with incentives."

The Republican governor planned to stop in Cape Coral and Flagler Beach Monday, in addition to Tampa. Scott made a counter argument to House leaders who last week blasted both Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida as "corporate welfare" that puts the power in the hands of the government to pick winners and losers. But tourism and economic development advocates say that eliminating these programs would hurt tourism and job creation in the state and in Tampa Bay.

"If eliminated, it would be devastating for Florida," said Roger Dow, the president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. Dow lives in St. Petersburg and commutes to Washington D.C., where is office is based. He was among the hundreds who were in Tallahassee last week to show support for Visit Florida. "This is about Hillsborough jobs, not Tallahassee politics. There will be ripple effects."

Dow cited Colorado's decision to eliminate its tourism marketing budget in 1993, which opened up the ski tourism market to new states like Utah and resulted in a $1.4 billion loss in annual tourism revenue. Dow said Colorado is only now reaching the visitor levels it had in the '90s.

"Everyone in the world is vying to get your tourism business," Dow said. "Why take the chance of sending people somewhere else?"

It's unclear how the state's dozens of local tourism bureaus and economic development agencies would operate without the support of a state agency. Uncertainty seemed to be the collective fear of small business owners, hotel staff and economic development leaders Monday.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn was concerned that eliminating Enterprise Florida could affect Tampa's ability to attract new businesses and continue to incubate the growing ones already here. Jeff Vinik has made a public effort to draw new businesses to downtown Tampa through his plans to redevelop 50-plus acres of the city's urban core. Vinik, who owns the Tampa Bay Lightning and has an ownership stake in Strategic Property Partners, the real estate venture in charge of the $3 billion redevelopment project, vowed to bring a corporate relocation and major employer to downtown Tampa.

"We'll be far less competitive," said Buckhorn, who added that without tourism marketing, hosting major events like the NCAA College Championship game will be much more difficult, too.

"Incentives are a significant part of the solution," Buckhorn said. "It's absurd. This is not good for Florida or Floridians. Creating jobs makes sense. We need to keep it in place."

Times staff writer Jeremy Wallace contributed to this report. Contact Justine Griffin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.

 
Comments
Florida jobs recover from Irma, unemployment rate drops

Florida jobs recover from Irma, unemployment rate drops

As economists predicted, the tough hit that Florida jobs took from Hurricane Irma was not long-lived. The state added 125,300 jobs in October, almost breaking even from the 127,400 jobs it lost in September. According to state figures released Friday...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Apple will postpone release of  HomePod

Apple will postpone release of HomePod

The Washington PostApple said Friday that it’s pushing back its plans for a Siri-powered smart speaker until sometime early next year.The HomePod speaker was announced in June, with an initial launch date set for December. Apple said that its smart s...
Updated: 9 hours ago
HSN, Good Housekeeping pick five contest finalists

HSN, Good Housekeeping pick five contest finalists

ST. PETERSBURG — Good Housekeeping and St. Petersburg-based HSN have chosen five finalists for their entrepreneur competition. The partners are searching for a novel item to promote as endorsed by the Good Housekeeping Seal, denoting reliability and ...
Published: 11/17/17
Trigaux: State of Tampa Bay startups? Disconnected we falter but there’s a plan to fix that

Trigaux: State of Tampa Bay startups? Disconnected we falter but there’s a plan to fix that

How are we doing?That was the Big Question posed more than once this past week in Tampa Bay. First, the Tampa Bay Partnership and USF debuted in-depth and new ways to measure Tampa Bay across a wide range of indicators to gauge whether we are gaining...
Published: 11/17/17
Tesla’s latest creation: An electric big rig that can travel 500 miles on a single charge

Tesla’s latest creation: An electric big rig that can travel 500 miles on a single charge

The main course was expected: a pair of sleek silver Tesla semi-trucks that get 500 miles per charge, go from zero to 60 mph in five seconds and — if the hype is to be believed — promise to single-handedly transform the commercial trucking industry.B...
Published: 11/17/17
We ask Tampa Bay startup leaders how best to advance entrepreneurial ecosystem

We ask Tampa Bay startup leaders how best to advance entrepreneurial ecosystem

What one thing could be added to the Tampa Bay startup community to help it grow and prosper?The Tampa Bay Times reached out to these leading area entrepreneurs and startup experts for answers.RELATED COVERAGE: Trigaux: State of Tampa Bay startups? D...
Published: 11/17/17
Before you hit the mall: here are some key holiday shopping hours

Before you hit the mall: here are some key holiday shopping hours

Plotting a shopping strategy for the holiday weekend? Here’s a look at holiday store opening hours for some major retailers:Thanksgiving8 a.m.: Kmart1 p.m.: JCPenney4 p.m.: GameStop5 p.m.: Best Buy, Macy’s, Toys "R" Us, Kohl’s6 p.m.: Old Navy, Target...
Published: 11/17/17
Electric, autonomous vehicles featured at Tampa auto show

Electric, autonomous vehicles featured at Tampa auto show

TAMPA — The two biggest trends in the automotive space are ones you’ve likely heard of: electric vehicles and autonomous cars. Both will feature prominently at the Tampa Bay International Auto Show today through Sunday. The event at the ...
Published: 11/17/17
Developer changes approach as downtown Largo project lags in financing

Developer changes approach as downtown Largo project lags in financing

LARGO — Driving down West Bay Drive, you may notice some changes to downtown Largo.A new 29-unit apartment complex on Ridge Road stands finished and ready for residents. South of the complex, land that was formerly home to a community of rundown cott...
Published: 11/17/17
Want to travel solo? Local enthusiasts share stories, tips for holidays trips

Want to travel solo? Local enthusiasts share stories, tips for holidays trips

Stephanie Maisonneuve visited the walled city of Cartagena, a port city off the Caribbean coast of Colombia. She rode horseback down the city’s cobbled streets clucking past flower-filled balconies and massive, wooden arched doors. The travel enthusi...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17