Friday, May 25, 2018
Business

The big change: Can Florida grow internally, rely less on newcomers?

One of the deans of the Florida economy held court Friday, forecasting a slowly improving business scene while predicting the Sunshine State will enter an era based more on internal growth and less on recruiting new people from afar.

"In the 1970s, Florida had very few Fortune 500 companies," said Mark Vitner, Wells Fargo senior economist in Charlotte, N.C., who has analyzed Florida ever since the 1980s as a junior economist at Barnett Banks in Jacksonville.

"Now we have many more sizable businesses headquartered or operating in Florida. So more growth should be starting to happen internally here," Vitner said in a 90-minute conference call dedicated to Florida's economic outlook.

One of those internal growth engines in Florida is the life sciences cluster. The industry got its substantive start here when former Gov. Jeb Bush assembled half a billion dollars and secretly recruited California biotech giant Scripps Research to open a research facility on Florida's east coast.

That bold (and expensive) act sparked other big-name biotech organizations — from the Max Planck Institute and Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies to Sanford Burnham Medical Research Institute — to expand to Florida.

All that life science activity and the huge recruitment sums have generated few new jobs, Vitner concedes. But he thinks that will soon change. He credits the high caliber of the biotech organizations here for reaching a tipping point that will produce new and better-paying jobs. Internally.

"Life sciences is what everybody's shooting for, and there is a lot of hype," Vitner said.

"It is real in Florida."

If Florida can grow more internally, the state may one day be able to shuck its unfortunate nickname: the Ponzi State. The state was so dubbed for its historical dependence on the wealth of newly arriving people to sustain the costs of the ones already here. "Ponzi State" headlined a 2009 New Yorker magazine story by George Packer (who credits USF history professor Gary Mormino for the Ponzi reference).

The state missed an earlier opportunity to grow internally in the 1980s when IBM developed the personal computer in Boca Raton. Rather than leverage that event, Florida ignored the possibilities and lost them.

Now Florida is fighting to save some of the engineering skills on its Space Coast, as NASA shrinks and private sector space businesses emerge. While the role of Florida in the future space business remains unclear, Vitner says the state is doing all it can.

The economist also identified geographic winners and losers in the coming recovery. Cities like Sebastian (on the East Coast), Naples, Tampa and Miami are on the mend, while Punta Gorda, Daytona and Pensacola are laggards.

Vitner likes what he sees in coastal southwest Florida. When the housing bubble sent area home prices soaring, Midwesterners who had served as prime buyers for that part of the state got priced out of the market.

Not anymore.

"Some people recognize Florida is a bargain again," Vitner says. People are buying housing here and can even do so now without the need to sell their own homes.

So what is Florida's biggest change ahead? Responds Vitner: "We will be less dependent on growth itself."

Contact Robert Trigaux at [email protected]

Comments
Is the Lightning’s Jeff Vinik the best owner in professional sports?

Is the Lightning’s Jeff Vinik the best owner in professional sports?

Hope of another Stanley Cup has dissolved, and soon the ice will follow. Yet even if sorrow is the price of devotion, the true hockey fans will still buy in when the next season comes around.That concept may not be unique to Tampa Bay, but it does se...
Published: 05/26/18
Five members of 69ers motorcycle gang indicted on federal charges

Five members of 69ers motorcycle gang indicted on federal charges

Last year three members of the 69ers Motorcycle Club gang were implicated in the execution of a rival gang leader in the middle of rush hour traffic in Pasco County.Now those three and two other 69ers members have been indicted on federal charges tha...
Published: 05/25/18
With makeover, ZooTampa at Lowry Park takes a page from the theme parks

With makeover, ZooTampa at Lowry Park takes a page from the theme parks

TAMPA — Behind the construction walls near the carousel at ZooTampa at Lowry Park, hammers, saws and power drills made a racket in the blazing Friday heat. A raft full of 100-pound water jugs took test trips on the new Roaring Springs ride set ...
Published: 05/25/18
U.S. news outlets block European readers over new privacy rules

U.S. news outlets block European readers over new privacy rules

LONDON — U.S. news outlets including The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, The Orlando Sentinel and The Arizona Daily Star abruptly blocked access to their websites from Europe on Friday, choosing to black out readers rather than comply with a ...
Published: 05/25/18
Tampa Electric appeals OSHA findings for October accident

Tampa Electric appeals OSHA findings for October accident

TAMPA — Tampa Electric Co. is appealing a recent citation by federal regulators. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration hit the utility with a $76,050 fine and a "serious" violation in April following its investigation into an accident in ...
Published: 05/25/18
Fiat Chrysler recalls 4.8 million cars, warning owners: Don’t use the cruise control

Fiat Chrysler recalls 4.8 million cars, warning owners: Don’t use the cruise control

Associated PressDETROIT — Fiat Chrysler is recalling 4.8 million vehicles in the U.S. because in rare but terrifying circumstances, drivers may not be able to turn off the cruise control. The company is warning owners not to use cruise control until...
Published: 05/25/18
Federal Reserve chairman warns his agency must be free from political pressure

Federal Reserve chairman warns his agency must be free from political pressure

Associated PressFederal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned Friday that the Fed’s independence from political pressure must be respected if it is to succeed in controlling inflation, maximizing employment and regulating the financial system. His re...
Published: 05/25/18
Restaurants like Ford’s Garage use the experience to get you in the door

Restaurants like Ford’s Garage use the experience to get you in the door

Tim Butler’s first car was a Ford Model A pick-up truck — a pearl fawn and cherry red pick-up he got his senior year in high school from his dad, who renovates antique cars. That’s why as Butler waited for a table at the Ford’...
Published: 05/25/18
St. Petersburg man fined $507,513 in penny stock scheme

St. Petersburg man fined $507,513 in penny stock scheme

TAMPA — A St. Petersburg man was fined $507,513 and permanently barred from participating in the offering of a penny stock in a case involving a scheme to manipulate the price of Aureus, a penny stock company incorporated in Nevada, officials said Fr...
Published: 05/25/18
Broadcom’s CEO tops highest-paid list with a $103 million payout

Broadcom’s CEO tops highest-paid list with a $103 million payout

Times staff and wiresNEW YORK — Chief executives at the biggest public companies got an 8.5 percent raise last year, bringing the median pay package for CEOs to $11.7 million. Across the S&P 500, compensation for CEOs is often hundreds of times highe...
Published: 05/25/18