Gov. Scott: Florida's 'open for business' but big relocations look slim

Florida Gov. Rick Scott visited the St. Petersburg Times on Thursday afternoon to discuss a broad range of topics that, he suggested, were all of secondary importance to one issue.

Jobs.

Yes, the governor's campaign mantra of "jobs, jobs, jobs" and "Let's get to work" remains his No. 1 priority. Without more jobs, without getting Florida's 10.6 percent unemployment rate lower, the economy will not improve.

Without more jobs and an uptick in commerce, the state's depleted coffers will never be replenished. And without more employment, Scott's top promise of 700,000 new jobs in seven years will never materialize.

Here are three takeaways on Scott's ideas for creating more jobs and re-energizing our economy, gleaned from a broader conversation with Times political and editorial writers and editors.

3. While Scott's still bullish on Florida's economy coming back, he seemed less at ease over the prospect of Florida jobs increasing at a steady clip. Florida has created 85,000 jobs since January. But that pace has slowed recently as the state economy seems to have weakened again and the volatile stock markets have turned south.

2. Asked about his own efforts at recruiting jobs to Florida, Scott acknowledged he has spent less time at that task than he would like. He also threw some cold water on any expectations that Florida, by reducing corporate taxes or streamlining red tape, would reap big windfalls from major corporate relocations. Scott said there are few opportunities out there of company relocations involving more than 200 people.

"Most growth will be internal in this state," he admitted, and involve companies with 50 people or less. Still, he said it is important that companies know that "Florida is open for business."

1. Scott talked about a few specific companies he'd like to see come to Florida. One is automaker Audi. Volkswagen, which owns Audi, has said it aims to become the world's largest automaker and wants to build an Audi plant in North America. "It would be nice to have that one," Scott said. Gray Swoope, Scott's recent pick as secretary of commerce and chief guy on reviving the economy, hails from Mississippi and boasts a history of auto plant deals.

Scott also wants to lure the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, an exchange for commodities and derivatives, to Florida after its CEO, Terry Duffy, expressed concerns over an Illinois decision to raise corporate taxes to 30 percent.

If the Chicago Mercantile Exchange moves, Scott predicted, "it will be between Florida and Texas."

A few thoughts. The odds of an Audi plant or the Chicago Mercantile Exchange landing in Florida seem slim. The state has little history in either auto manufacturing or commodities trading. But you never know.

This was my first in-person encounter with our governor. He clearly seems to be on a newspaper tour to improve his image. It's working. A bit. I like him better for meeting him but know he has an imperious side as well.

That's perfectly fine with me. If it boosts jobs in Florida.

Contact Robert Trigaux at trigaux@sptimes.com.

Gov. Scott: Florida's 'open for business' but big relocations look slim 08/18/11 [Last modified: Friday, August 19, 2011 12:36am]

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