Thursday, April 26, 2018
Business

Manufacturing group hopes to gets candidates' attention in Florida

Florida isn't known for manufacturing.

The state has built a reputation for aerospace and biomedical manufacturing, but that accounts for only about 4 percent of the state's jobs, less than half the national rate and one of the lowest in the country. And images of big factories don't jive with images of Florida as a tourist haven full of beaches and orange groves.

Still, the manufacturing industry wants to be heard here, and Florida's central role in the presidential election drew a visit recently from the head of the National Association of Manufacturers, an industry trade group that is among the most well-heeled advocacy groups in Washington.

Jay Timmons, the association's president, visited with business leaders at Port Tampa Bay to promote the group's agenda, saying he hoped presidential candidates would make manufacturing a priority as they swing through the state.

The Tampa Bay Times sat down with Timmons and Tom Feeney, a former Florida House speaker and president of the Associated Industries of Florida, the association's state affiliate.

Florida isn't particularly known for manufacturing. So, why are you here?

Timmons: Florida is obviously a very key state in a national election year like this one, and we want to make sure that as folks start to focus on Florida that the candidates who are here are talking about the imperative for a strong manufacturing agenda that will obviously grow the economy and create jobs.

Feeney: … Florida is a little bit unique in that when I first got elected to the state House, manufacturing wasn't a priority for many policymakers. We were basically agribusiness, so citrus and the orange state. We were tourism. And in some ways, manufacturing was seen as inconsistent — trucks and dirt and pollution issues. And finally it was building communities, especially retirement communities, none of which lent itself naturally to being a primary spot to do serious manufacturing. What's changed is the jobs have become much more high-tech, sophisticated, high-paying.

What challenges are unique to Florida?

Feeney: Most of the challenges Florida has are similar to national manufacturers, whether it's the skills gap or competitive energy pricing or whether it's fighting off unreasonable mandates by the Department of Labor. … Florida has some unique aspects. On the downside, we've got unique water issues. Our state is different than the other states. When the EPA mandates were talked about, most of my (manufacturing advocacy) colleagues in 49 states, they're thinking about coal emissions and air. Florida thinks first and foremost about the threats from the EPA of micromanaging our water. But just like we have challenges, we have opportunities. There are great manufacturing states that don't have any deep water ports, let alone 14. … The governor is in the right spot, we've got great legislative leadership, and we really see nothing but upside for manufacturing in Florida.

Timmons: And that leadership matters. I mean, if a state is serious about growing the manufacturing base, it's because the governor is setting the agenda, setting the tone. And from our perspective, we want a president that's doing exactly that. There's a tremendous amount of competition for our jobs and investment in other countries, and we want to keep them here.

How much can elected officials really do to attract industry?

Timmons: Manufacturers want to go where the cost of doing business is the most competitive. So you've got this national cost structure that you've got to deal with, and then you're going to look at the differences between the states and what you can find in those states. And yes, incentives are one piece of that puzzle. Taxes are another, the cost of regulations are another, the cost of energy is another. But significantly, and I'm hearing it more and more everywhere in the country, it's really the workforce. Are the primary and secondary (schools), as well as the institutions of higher education, focusing on the right curriculum to be able to train prospective employees? Manufacturing today … is very technology-infused, technology-driven, and there's a need for science and technology and engineering and mathematics on the technological side of it. It's far more than I think really anybody, far more than many folks had thought was going to be necessary this soon. The advances are just continuing at a dizzying pace. If you look at the "Internet of things" and how that's now being infused into almost everything in our lives, including every manufacturing process and manufactured device, it's pretty important to have those skill sets to be able to deal with it.

Contact Thad Moore at [email protected] or (813) 226-3434. Follow @thadmoore.

Comments
Duke Energy announces new Florida leadership

Duke Energy announces new Florida leadership

ST. PETERSBURG — The head of Duke Energy Florida is leaving his post to take a new role with the utility’s parent company June 1, the company announced on Wednesday. Harry Sideris, 47, was appointed this week to serve as vice president a...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Yelp search results reflected racist stereotype that Asian American restaurants serve cat and dog

Yelp search results reflected racist stereotype that Asian American restaurants serve cat and dog

A strange thing happened when typing "dog menu" into the restaurant ratings website and app Yelp. It automatically generated suggested searches. There were dog massage, hot dogs, pet groomers. Also: "dog meat." But it got more disturbing. Take Yelp...
Published: 04/25/18
As more emotional support animals fly on U.S. airlines, Congress eyes new ways to tighten the leash

As more emotional support animals fly on U.S. airlines, Congress eyes new ways to tighten the leash

WASHINGTON — With hundreds of thousands of emotional support animals taking to the skies on U.S. airlines, Congress may start pulling a tighter leash.Two new legislative options emerged this week to address a hairy issue for American Airlines, Southw...
Published: 04/25/18

Comcast challenges Murdoch with rival bid for U.K.-based Sky

LONDON — U.S. media giant Comcast on Wednesday offered $30.7 billion for Sky PLC, topping a bid from Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox and setting up a bidding war for Britain’s biggest satellite TV company.Comcast said it would pay approximately $17...
Published: 04/25/18
Sprouts Farmers Market to open new store in Pasco County

Sprouts Farmers Market to open new store in Pasco County

TRINITY — Pasco County will be getting its first Sprouts Farmers Market, the organic grocery chain announced Wednesday. The new store will open at the Village at Mitchell Ranch on State Road 54 and Little Road. Officials with the speciality st...
Published: 04/25/18
Circle K launching own gas at eight Hillsborough locations

Circle K launching own gas at eight Hillsborough locations

TAMPA — Circle K is converting the gas station portion of eight of its Hillsborough locations to Circle K fuel. Previously, the fuel was provided by other brands, such as Shell. The new Circle K branding also brings with it the Canadian-owned conveni...
Published: 04/25/18
Florida leads other hurricane-prone states in quality of its building codes

Florida leads other hurricane-prone states in quality of its building codes

Florida has the strongest residential building codes among 18 coastal states, according to a new study by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety. Florida’s rating is 95, almost three times higher than lowest-ranked Texas. Other states wit...
Published: 04/25/18
Study: Tampa Bay homes in once ‘redlined’ neighborhoods worth half those in other areas

Study: Tampa Bay homes in once ‘redlined’ neighborhoods worth half those in other areas

Times staffRedlining’ — banks’ refusal to make mortgage loans in certain areas — still has a huge effect on housing values even though the practice was banned 50 years ago. According to Zillow, a Tampa Bay house in a once-redlined area is worth less ...
Published: 04/25/18
Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opens first Tampa restaurant, Nebraska Mini-Mart grab-and-go coming soon

Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opens first Tampa restaurant, Nebraska Mini-Mart grab-and-go coming soon

NOW OPEN: TEX-MEX CHAIN CHUY’SThe Austin, Texas-based Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opened its first Tampa restaurant on Tuesday, giving away free Chuy’s for two for a year to the first 50 customers. I know, we missed it, it’s a bummer, but we can still visit...
Published: 04/25/18
Clearwater looks to move out of City Hall to speed up Imagine Clearwater waterfront redevelopment

Clearwater looks to move out of City Hall to speed up Imagine Clearwater waterfront redevelopment

CLEARWATER — Elected officials have talked about relocating City Hall from the downtown bluff for a good 30 years. Now there’s a jolt of urgency to actually do it.Voters backed a referendum in November that essentially greenlighted the $55 million re...
Published: 04/25/18