Thursday, May 24, 2018
Business

Is Florida in a long – and wrong – race to be cheapest for business?

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has embarked on a job-poaching spree, sending letters aimed at luring companies from seven states with higher taxes. The only problem is Scott's strategy mimics on the cheap what Texas Gov. Rick Perry is doing in person and with more advertising panache.

While Scott was at the Paris Air Show on Monday pitching low-tax l'amour to woo aerospace jobs to Florida, Perry launched a five-day tour of New York, Connecticut and nearby states to entice businesses to the Lone Star State.

Similar to his Texas campaigns in California and Illinois, where Perry ads warned "get out while there's still time," the kicker on his Northeast ad is "get out before you go broke." Perry even zings New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg for trying to limit the size of soft drinks.

Perry's new ad starts this way: "Higher taxes. Stifling regulations. Bureaucrats telling you whether you can even drink a Big Gulp. This is Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and there is a place where opportunity, freedom and innovation are flourishing, and that's Texas."

That's about the same, if less colorful, pitch Scott makes in letters sent to hundreds of business CEOs in seven states, all with Democratic governors.

As reported by Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times, Scott's "One-Way Ticket to Florida" letter campaign targets executives in states rich in manufacturing. They are California, New York, Illinois, Minnesota, Connecticut, Maryland and Kentucky. Scott's letter, Bousquet writes, has "carefully cut-and-pasted comparisons that show Florida in a favorable light."

"Thanks to the recent economic turnaround we have mounted here in Florida over the last two years," writes Scott, "our state now ranks second in the nation as a place to do business, and we are nipping at the heels of Texas every day, as we approach the prized number one spot."

These No. 1 and No. 2 spots refer to the rankings of Texas and Florida in Chief Executive magazine's annual list of best states for business. Based on CEO surveys, Florida has climbed from No. 6 in 2010 to No. 3 in 2011 and in 2012 bumped North Carolina from the No. 2 spot. Texas remained No. 1 throughout.

Scott must feel empowered by the recent decision by Fortune 500 company Hertz to relocate its headquarters to Florida from New Jersey.

Chief Executive is hardly a household name. Other best-for-business surveys rank Florida (and Texas) less favorably. Forbes last year ranked Florida a ho-hum No. 27 (Texas was No. 7), while CNBC last year ranked Texas tops, but dropped Florida to No. 29 based on poor business costs and education concerns.

As opportunists, Scott and Perry cherry-pick those numbers in the most favorable light and ignore the rest.

A U.S. map on Gov. Perry's state website shows Texas gained a half-million more jobs than it had before the recession. And poor Florida? The same map shows it has still lost more than 400,000 jobs than it once had.

Targeted high-tax states like Connecticut and California pooh-pooh job-poaching campaigns as cheap shots from higher-crime, lower quality-of-life competitors.

Good luck with that argument. I don't see companies rushing to relocate to more expensive states. But in the long run, places like Florida and Texas will have to become more than just low-rent, low-wage salesmen.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at [email protected]

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