Make us your home page

Gov. Scott takes jobs message to struggling Panhandle

DESTIN — Gov. Rick Scott brought his jobs message to the Panhandle on Tuesday, telling local business leaders he will keep his promise to make Florida the best state for job creation.

"This state is ripe for success," Scott said. "The expectations for our state are unbelievable right now."

The expectations are also high for Scott, who has promised to create 700,000 jobs and make Florida much more business-friendly by cutting taxes and red tape while building the nation's best-educated work force.

On the job just two weeks, Scott made a return trip to a struggling region that provided strong support for him in the election. It's an area desperate for jobs and hungry for an economic resurgence after the 1-2 punch of the recession and the gulf oil spill.

Tuesday's roundtable included hoteliers, developers, marina operators, accountants and lawyers, all with a stake in Northwest Florida's tourism and defense-dependent economy. The locals loved Scott's anti-regulation message and praised him for his executive order freezing many new regulations, giving the 45-minute discussion a campaign feel. (At one point, Scott said, "We're going to win.")

State Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, ran the proceedings, describing the participants as "people who sign the front of paychecks" and Scott "the real deal" when it comes to creating jobs.

Gaetz is expected to be a key advocate for Scott's agenda in the Legislature, and he said that while Scott is saying all the right things, there is a hunger for more specifics. "I would say there's a significant anticipation as to, 'Okay, what are the details? What's he thinking about, fill in the blank,' " Gaetz said.

Steve Riggs, a politically active local CPA, said Scott's pro-jobs pitch is welcome, as is the fact that the governor and ex-hospital executive is not a professional politician.

"It's refreshing. It's different from what we normally hear," said Riggs, who described the state Department of Environmental Protection as the state's largest "terrorist organization."

Scott, still moving slowly at filling key administration posts, said he will introduce the new DEP secretary, Jacksonville executive Herschel Vineyard, at today's first meeting of the new Cabinet.

In the Emerald Grande resort, Scott told business leaders he is cold-calling chief executives around the country, asking them to move jobs to Florida. He said he is considering trade missions to Japan and Colombia this year.

While in Destin, Scott also hailed the decision by Vision Airlines, an Atlanta-based charter service, to offer daily nonstop flights from 20 cities to Fort Walton Beach, just across the bay from Destin. Among the 20 cities, flights will originate from St. Petersburg-Clearwater International and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International airports starting in April.

With its fleet of Boeing 737s, the airline sees a lucrative corridor flying vacationers to Destin's white sandy beaches from Knoxville, Louisville, Little Rock and other Southern cities, with one-way fares starting at $89.

The airline's Florida expansion was in the works for the past six months — long before Scott was elected in November. But a top company official said Scott's election was "the straw that tipped the scales for us."

Vision Airlines' chief operating officer, David Meers, told Scott his firm is looking at new locations for its aircraft maintenance operation, dangling about 500 good-paying jobs before the self-proclaimed "jobs governor."

"When can we talk?" Scott asked Meers jokingly.

Area economic development experts say the Vision Florida expansion will bring 4,200 "direct and indirect" jobs to the region, citing research by Northwest Florida State College.

"Only 695,000 more to go," joked state Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Destin.

Scott said a friend compared him, and Florida, to NFL coach Bill Parcells, who gained a reputation for taking over football teams just as they were on the cusp of greatness.

"I hope that's true," Scott said.

Gov. Scott takes jobs message to struggling Panhandle 01/18/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 18, 2011 9:13pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 'Road to Nowhere' is back: Next phase of Suncoast Parkway coming


    Despite intense public opposition and dubious traffic projections, the Florida Department of Transportation has announced that construction of the toll road known as "Suncoast 2" is expected to start in early 2018.

    The Suncoast Parkway ends at U.S. 98 just south of Citrus County. For years residents have opposed extending the toll road, a project dubbed the "Suncoast 2" into Citrus County. But state officials recently announced that the Suncoast 2 should start construction in early 2018. [Stephen J. Coddington  |  TIMES]
  2. A sports rout on Wall Street


    NEW YORK — Sporting goods retailers can't shake their losing streak.

  3. Grocery chain Aldi hosting hiring event in Brandon Aug. 24


    BRANDON — German grocery chain Aldi is holding a hiring event for its Brandon store Aug. 24. It is looking to fill store associate, shift manager and manager trainee positions.

  4. Lightning owner Jeff Vinik backs film company pursuing global blockbusters


    TAMPA — Jeff Vinik's latest investment might be coming to a theater near you.

    Jeff Vinik, Tampa Bay Lightning owner, invested in a new movie company looking to appeal to a global audience. | [Times file photo]
  5. Trigaux: Look to new Inc. 5000 rankings for Tampa Bay's future heavyweights


    There's a whole lotta fast-growing private companies here in Tampa Bay. Odds are good you have not heard of most of them.


    Kyle Taylor, CEO and founder of The Penny Hoarder, fills a glass for his employees this past Wednesday as the young St. Petersburg personal advice business celebrates its landing at No. 25 on the 2017 Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing private companies in the country. Taylor, still in his 20s, wins kudos from executive editor Alexis Grant for keeping the firm's culture innovative. The business ranked No. 32 last year. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]