Thursday, November 23, 2017
Opinion

Column: Making Florida into an opportunity economy

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The Tampa Bay Times' Dec. 9 editorial focused on one of the most important subjects to all Floridians: jobs. But the challenges facing our growing state won't end when we reach a certain number of jobs created or a certain unemployment rate. We are working to build an opportunity economy that will create jobs for generations to come.

In 2010, as the Times said, I laid out a goal to reform our economic policies so job creators could add 700,000 jobs in seven years. Unfortunately, the Times' editorial added up all the jobs employers reduced over the last few years, but failed to mention the great news that we have experienced net job growth over that same time. Simply put, the full math on our state's economy is that we have added more than 440,000 net, new private sector jobs since we began implementing progrowth policies. This means that in less than three years, we are more than halfway to the 700,000 seven-year job creation goal. In fact, Florida added more jobs in the month of October than any other state in the country. The Times doesn't mention it, but Florida's job growth rate has been outpacing that nation's and that of other large states for many months. The numbers show our economy is turning around — and more quickly than the national economy.

Only one portion of our economic policy focuses on winning competitive jobs projects. These projects are usually ones where Florida competes with other states and countries for business investment and ultimately job creation. The Times' focused solely on these competitive projects in its editorial, which, unfortunately does not factor in all the other jobs our economy created over the same period of time.

Even when limiting a review of our economy to only those competitive projects that win the investment of taxpayer funds, we've had a remarkable turnaround. Florida was not considered a competitive state on significant economic deals in 2010. I met with economic consultants who said that Florida was considered for only about 1 out of 20 competitive projects. Today, Florida competes for about 1 out of 4 economic projects. The difference? A new business climate in Florida.

We have drastically reformed Florida's economic policies in the last few years. We changed tax increases to tax cuts. We changed rising spending and rising debt to streamlined services and reduced debt. We changed red tape and regulations on job creators to policies that streamlined permitting and eliminated thousands of onerous regulations. This is a new business climate, and it's working. Just this August, national ratings agency, Fitch, upgraded our economic outlook from "negative" to "stable" and said, "economic performance is improving."

Our competitive economic projects include massive, multiple-year wins, including: Hertz Corporation (700 new jobs, $68.75 million in capital investment), Northrop Grumman (1,000 new jobs), Navy Federal Credit Union (1,500 new jobs, $200 million in capital investment), Verizon (750 new jobs; $50 million in capital investment), and Boeing (550 new jobs; $163 million in capital investment). It is important to know that these expected jobs are not created overnight. In fact, they are all multiple-year projects that will invest millions in Florida communities and create direct and indirect jobs for years to come.

Because our economy is growing, we have been able to make record investments in our education system — including $480 million for teacher pay raises. We have also been able to invest in transportation system priorities, like our ports; and in environmental projects, like our historic $880 million plan to restore water quality in the Everglades.

Creating a great jobs climate, investing in our education system and improving how we deliver services in everything from health care to transportation is the foundation of an opportunity economy. We want to be a catalyst for growth in Florida's technology sector — from a small startup company to the creation of major technological defense systems. We want to harness the potential of our ports in world trade, and continue to build up our manufacturing industry. We want to encourage greater innovation at our cancer centers. And that is just a start. We want to build an opportunity economy in Florida for our children and grandchildren. We don't just want more jobs — we want our state to be an engine for job growth for generations to come.

Rick Scott is governor of Florida.

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