CEOs bullish on Florida, unlike workers, who rank it 47th in work environment

Published May 8, 2012

Squinting through a pinhole, even the Florida economy can look awesome.

Consider Florida's rising from No. 3 to No. 2 in Chief Executive magazine's recent annual survey of the best states for business. Florida pushed business powerhouse North Carolina from the second slot and now only trails Texas in the best business state race.

If we care only what CEOs think about Florida, then Mission Accomplished. Let's go celebrate. Surely Florida's economy soon must roar like a lion when news spreads that chief executive officers see the Sunshine State business climate as superior to those in 48 other states.

Now broaden that pinhole view. Look at the well-being of Floridians based on their own responses.

It's not a pretty sight. Ranked against other states on a Well Being Index, Florida lands at a lowly No. 42 based on 2011 data. That's a five-state drop since 2010 when Florida ranked an already mediocre 37th.

The decline stinks, of course. What's more disturbing is to live in a state that's somehow managed to become rated No. 2 for business and No. 42 in citizen well-being.

Such a yawning gap between those two rankings is troubling. Can a state really succeed if the business elites are ecstatic but their workers are not?

CEOs can be as bullish as they want when praising low state taxes and cheap wages. But those same executives need upbeat Floridians if they want upbeat workers.

If Florida residents' sense of well-being is so low, this state is never going to be the business mecca that leaders say they are building.

Data tracker Gallup produces the "Well-Being Index." It surveys a broad base of quality-of-life measures that include life evaluation (from "suffering" to "thriving"), emotional health (measuring factors like depression, stress and enjoyment), physical health (factors like "disease burden," energy level and "feeling rested"), healthy behaviors (gauging smoking, exercise or "eating healthy"), and basic access (quality of living conditions, access to health services).

The index also measures "work environment," which looks at job satisfaction, the ability to use one's strengths at work and treatment by supervisors.

Here's how Floridians ranked — by state — in the 2011 survey:

Well-being overall: 42nd

Life evaluation: 45th

Emotional health: 35th

Physical health: 29th

Healthy behavior: 17th

Basic access: 44th

Finally, on work environment, Floridians ranked 47th, down from 39th in 2010.

Work conditions must have deteriorated quite a bit for Florida to drop eight places in just one year.

Oddly, Florida's unemployment rate has been improving at the same time. In May 2010 it was over 11 percent. In May 2011 it had dropped to 10.6 percent. This May's jobless figures will not be out for a few weeks yet but could very well drop below 9 percent.

Recruiting CEOs and their businesses is key for states trying to kick-start their economies. Let's just not build recruitment campaigns on the backs of already pressed Floridians.

Contact Robert Trigaux at or (727) 893-8405.