When candidate Rick Scott parked his campaign bus plastered with "Let's Get to Work" slogans at Tampa Steel & Supply in Ybor City last year, he brought the promise of job creation. But rather than a helping hand for Tampa Steel, Scott's policies as governor have been more like the back of the hand.
There have been no new jobs at Tampa Steel since Scott made that appearance in July 2010 with legions of TV cameras and reporters in tow, as WUSF's Bobbie O'Brien reported last week. In fact, the small, recession-battered metal supply business has lost an additional employee to layoffs — it's now down to 10 workers from a high of 14.
The company's co-owner, Bruce Goldman, says that he was happy to host the Scott campaign event and hear what the candidate had to say. But Goldman soured on Scott after the governor rejected high-speed rail between Tampa and Orlando and the $2.4 billion in federal money it would have brought to Florida.
"You know, he talked jobs, jobs, jobs, and then he took all those jobs away from the construction industry," Goldman told WUSF. "There would have been so much more work, so much more money coming in from the Tampa-Orlando corridor, and that just really hurt us."
As to Scott's idea that one of the keys to job creation is eliminating regulation? Don't tell that to Tampa Steel's general manager, who told WUSF categorically that there are "no regulations that limit our growth." Rather, the problem is the lack of big construction projects such as high-speed rail that create spending and help grow small businesses.
Tampa Steel's experience is mirrored in the abysmal numbers. Florida is down 23,000 construction jobs from a year ago, a 6.5 percent decrease. Since 2006, the state has lost 52 percent of its construction jobs, hurting small businesses all along the supply chain. Slogans on campaign buses might make good photo-ops, but they don't get people hired. For that, the state sure could have used high-speed rail.