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Mark Wilson

Florida needs new road map

In response to your recent editorial, "Put up or shut up," one thing is clear: The Florida Chamber of Commerce and the St. Petersburg Times are in agreement.

We agree that the Florida we've known is changing and that Florida desperately needs a comprehensive, long-term plan to return Floridians to work and a strategy to transition our economy that focuses on talent generation, innovation and higher wage jobs.

Unfortunately, the agreement apparently ends there, as we clearly differ on the best road to Florida's next economy. While we don't expect accolades from the St. Petersburg Times, leading business organizations ranging from the Florida Council of 100 to Florida TaxWatch to the Florida Chamber of Commerce have vocally acknowledged that the Florida we've all known is fundamentally over and a new Florida is on the horizon — and, we're backing it up with a long-range plan. As responsible Floridians, we must aggressively make up for lost time and confront the reality that the Florida of tomorrow cannot, and will not, be the Florida of yesterday.

Consider the facts: Florida is projected to grow by 7 million more residents over the next 20 years, will soon eclipse New York as the third most populous state in America, has moved from the fifth cheapest place in America to live to the 19th most expensive, and would be the world's 20th largest economy if Florida were a country.

We believe Florida cannot litigate, tax or regulate its way to prosperity. What we Floridians can do is develop a far-reaching, powerful strategic plan that will position Florida as one of world's leading destinations for high-wage job creation.

This month, the Florida Chamber launches a five-year strategic plan aimed at fully transitioning Florida for future competitiveness, focusing on six key drivers to plan and benchmark our progress toward a successful global economy for Florida. We encourage you and your readers to learn more about this plan and the drivers by viewing the Florida Scorecard, the Florida Chamber Foundation's newly developed economic dashboard, at www.thefloridascorecard.com.

Florida is in a major economic transition, and we know that Florida voters are smart, taxpayers are fed up with wasteful spending, and fundamental changes to the system must be made in order for our state to prosper in the global economy.

The St. Petersburg Times editorial board has advocated for raising taxes to address Florida's significant revenue shortfall. The Florida Chamber believes the first step is to gain broad consensus around a plan for a new Florida economy and let the plan inform debate on revenues and taxes. Simply raising taxes and throwing more money at problems without a sound strategy is destined to fail. No business owner would do so and we don't think it is right to ask Floridians to do so either.

We live in serious times that demand a higher level of civic leadership. The Florida Chamber of Commerce welcomes debate on the strategies that will lead Florida to prosperity. It's time to put the long term ahead of the short term and it is past time for taking shots at those who are stepping forward to lead.

For our part, the Florida Chamber intends to keep pressing its plan for a better Florida and we will support lawmakers who share our vision for the future. Like Florida's economic transition, we're just getting started.

Mark Wilson is president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Florida needs new road map 11/02/09 [Last modified: Monday, November 2, 2009 6:53pm]

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