Monday, April 23, 2018
News Roundup

Rick Scott's troubled jobs agency taps former Tampa rep as new leader

The embattled agency that Gov. Rick Scott relies on for job creation chose its new leader Wednesday.

Enterprise Florida agreed to hire former Tampa state Rep. Chris Hart IV to run the quasi-governmental agency that oversees the recruiting of businesses during a two-hour meeting attended by Scott.

Hart, 48, has run the state's job training development agency, CareerSource Florida under Scott and prior to that he was the interim director of the Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development under former Gov. Charlie Crist from Jan. 2010 to early 2011. A Republican, he was in the Florida Legislature from 1998 to 2002.

"I'd like to thank you for inviting me to be apart of this grand adventure with all of you," Hart told Enterprise Florida board members at a meeting in Miramar Beach in Northwest Florida. "What better place than Enterprise Florida to help our fellow Floridians realize their hopes and their dreams and their aspirations."

Hart's positioned was advertised as having a salary between $175,000 and $200,000.

Enterprise Florida board members are touting Hart's past as a state legislator as a sign that the agency will work better with the Florida Legislature, which gutted Scott's job incentives programs last year by refusing to give Scott any of the $250 million he requested. Incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Pasco County, has declared the incentive program as "corporate welfare" that conflict with his view of government's proper role.

Hart will take over an Enterprise Florida that is still paying for issues left over from former CEO Bill Johnson. Enterprise Florida announced this week it had spent $107,000 since June on an outside accounting and management firm that specializes in taking on "distressed situations" and "helps clean things up." Another $10,000 might still need to go to that company, CFO Strategic Partners in Orlando, before they complete their task, said Rodney Ownby, vice president of accounting and finance at Enterprise Florida.

Johnson left Enterprise Florida in June after Scott unceremoniously announced months earlier that he would be "transitioning out" of the agency. Scott never said Johnson was fired, but Johnson was given a $132,400 severance package on top of his $265,000 annual salary.

As Johnson was leaving, an outside review of the agency warned that it was overspending on management, travel and lacked internal financial controls to prevent fraud. Since then, the agency has cut employees from 80 to 57, trimmed management, reduced office space and put better internal controls in place.

Despite the turmoil, Scott has been unwavering in his support of Enterprise Florida and has vowed to keep pushing the state Legislature for more money for job incentive programs — despite Corcoran's objections. Before Hart was officially hired, Scott praised Enterprise Florida for being instrumental in helping Florida add more than 1.1 million private jobs since he was elected.

"Bottom line is that it works in our state the way we are doing it," said Scott, who added that Florida has won over 500 competitive projects against other states since he took office thanks to Enterprise Florida.

Florida does not have a traditional commerce department like many other states. Instead, 20 years ago, Florida created Enterprise Florida to be quasi-governmental entity with a 64-member board of directors that runs it largely like a private business. About 90 percent of its operations are funded by taxpayers.

For much of Scott's tenure, Enterprise Florida has been a cherished organization charged with leading his efforts to recruit companies from other states and nations to move to Florida to create jobs — a central theme of Scott's 2010 and 2014 campaigns for governor.

Contact Jeremy Wallace at [email protected] Follow @JeremySWallace

Comments
Shaquem Griffin on TODAY show: ‘I’m not limited to nothing’

Shaquem Griffin on TODAY show: ‘I’m not limited to nothing’

Shaquem Griffin's ability to play football without a left hand has made him the talk of the NFL draft. But the former Lakewood High and UCF star is determined to silence such talk with his play."It gets tiring," Griffin said today...
Updated: 7 minutes ago
Police: Infant in stolen St. Petersburg car left in parking lot; driver on loose

Police: Infant in stolen St. Petersburg car left in parking lot; driver on loose

ST. PETERSBURG — An 8-month-old boy was found safe after he was in a car that was stolen on Monday afternoon.Police say the person who stole the car left the child in the parking lot of an apartment complex at 800 71st Ave. N before driving off.The c...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
Lucky’s Market hosting job fairs in St. Petersburg ahead of June opening

Lucky’s Market hosting job fairs in St. Petersburg ahead of June opening

ST. PETERSBURG — Job fairs to fill more than 100 jobs open at Tampa Bay’s first Lucky’s Market start this week, the organic grocer announced on Monday. The grocery store, located at 6765 22nd Ave. N, is hosting hiring fairs Monday through Friday unti...
Updated: 13 minutes ago
Alex Cobb and Logan Morrison have ex-Ray vision. Here’s what they see.

Alex Cobb and Logan Morrison have ex-Ray vision. Here’s what they see.

ST. PETERSBURG — Absolutely, Alex Cobb was saying over the phone, it's going to be weird pitching Tuesday against the Rays.The organization that he owes so much for rearing him since high school, standing by him through assorted injuries, enabl...
Updated: 16 minutes ago
Did you see who hit panhandler near Selmon and drove away?

Did you see who hit panhandler near Selmon and drove away?

TAMPA — A man with a history of arrests for roadside soliciting has been found dead at the side of a road. Jess Paez, 51, was identified by Tampa police Monday as the victim of an apparent hit-and-run crash over the weekend. His body was found about ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Polly want a sacker: Bucs’ 4th-round draft pick to be delivered by parrot

Polly want a sacker: Bucs’ 4th-round draft pick to be delivered by parrot

Late-round NFL draft picks are often made on a wing and a prayer.The Bucs' fourth-round pick Saturday will be no different. The team announced Monday that as part of the NFL draft TV broadcast, the team's fourth-round pick will be delivered to an ann...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Leonhardt: A time for big economic ideas

The headlines may talk about growth, but we are living in a dark economic era. For most families, income and wealth have stagnated in recent decades, barely keeping pace with inflation. Nearly all the bounty of the economy’s growth has flowed to the ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Projecting where USF’s prospects will get drafted

Projecting where USF’s prospects will get drafted

For all the analyses and hypotheses, all the Mels and McShays, all the pro days and private workouts, the NFL draft remains a crap shoot at its core.But just for kicks, we're rolling the dice anyway.As a prelude to what could — could — be...
Updated: 1 hour ago
USF baseball cracks top 25

USF baseball cracks top 25

For the first time this season, USF's baseball team has cracked the national rankings.The Bulls (26-14, 9-6), coming off series wins against UCF and No. 7 East Carolina, are No. 20 in the latest Baseball America weekly poll. USF, winner of five of it...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Pasco Letters to the Editor for April 27

Stop Ridge Road extension, reader saysWhen I spoke at the Dade City meeting of the Pasco County Commissioners on my opposition to the Ridge Road Extension, three of them responded, but only when my three minutes of free speech expired, and I could sa...
Updated: 1 hour ago