TAMPA — Amid news of a narrowing gubernatorial race, Democrat Alex Sink touted her economic plan at the Tampa Bay Technology Incubator at the University of South Florida on Monday.
The state's chief financial officer said her plan will help small businesses by providing tax incentives and aid with startup costs. She said she plans to name a small-business ombudsman to the Governor's Office and boost partnerships between private industries and public universities.
Sink's visit came as a new Quinnipiac University poll suggested the race to replace Gov. Charlie Crist is closer than previous polls showed. According to the query conducted April 8-13, Sink is now just 4 points behind Republican Bill McCollum with 36 percent of support to his 40 percent.
The attorney general has been the front-runner since August, but according to the poll, he's not getting much traction among independents with his plan to sue the federal government over health care reform.
"People are just now starting to pay attention," Sink said Monday before discussing her three-pronged economic strategy, with sections titled "Revive," "Remake" and "Reform." "It just proves what I've said all along. This race is getting very competitive."
Sink's visit was the eighth stop of her Business Plan for Florida Tour, which began last month in West Palm Beach. She toured two biomedical laboratories and held a roundtable discussion with several leaders of local information technology businesses.
At the Tampa branch of the Cambridge-based Draper Laboratory, which specializes in defense and biomedical engineering, director Shankar Sundaram lauded the businesses' cooperation with USF.
Sink said encouraging that kind of partnership is one of the key parts of her plan. "All the pieces of the puzzle are here," she said.
Joachim Sasse, head of BioMedTech Laboratories Inc., highlighted the challenge of startup costs. Sink told him she hopes to provide research and development tax credits for in-state investments and defer state corporate income taxes for a business' first three years.
Her plan also includes: giving tax credits to businesses that create more jobs; aggressively marketing Florida's tourism in growing economies like China; encouraging infrastructure construction; streamlining government services; and creating a statewide efficiency review of every government office, including the governor's.
"I'm going to bring my business career to Tallahassee," said Sink, a former president of Bank of America Florida. "That is our future."
McCollum unveiled his economic plan at a University of Tampa event last week. He proposed trimming the state's corporate income tax, lowering property taxes; exempting high-tech business equipment and infrastructure costs from sales taxes; expanding the manufacturing machinery and equipment tax exemption; giving tax credits for research; and rolling back business regulations.
Times/Herald staff writer Mary Ellen Klas contributed to this report. Kim Wilmath can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3386.