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Trigaux: Florida Gov. Rick Scott's recruiting visit sparks California backlash

Published Apr. 16, 2015

Tackling the big kahuna of his business recruitment tour of Democratic-led states, Gov. Rick Scott visited California this week urging companies and West Coast ports to bring their business to cheaper, friendlier Florida.

"You have a beautiful state," Scott told the San Francisco Chronicle as he prepared to talk to about 500 business leaders in Southern California. "But if you look at our state and its successes, we're creating jobs and diversifying our economy," he said. "People are moving their money to Florida."

Scott's trip was supplemented by $17,000 in radio and $49,000 in "Florida Is Ready!" print ads slamming California's business climate as inhospitable and targeting California's shipping business after the recent damaging West Coast port labor dispute estimated to have cost the U.S. economy nearly $2 billion a day.

It's a familiar strategy by Scott. His recent recruiting trip to the Philadelphia area was criticized as "poaching" by Pennsylvania business leaders.

While Scott's California tour was encouraged by some West Coast groups endorsing lower taxes and less regulation, other pro-business organizations retaliated with some slings and arrows of their own at Florida's governor and his state's economy.

"Scott is treating cost as the only priority for companies. If that were the case, we'd all be living in Mississippi," opined Barry Broome, CEO of the Greater Sacramento Area Economic Council, in the Sacramento Bee newspaper.

California clearly dominates the United States in innovation. The state boasts 54 headquarters of Fortune 500 corporations that include such worldwide brands as Apple, Google, Walt Disney, Intel and Wells Fargo.

Florida's top Fortune 500 company is the little-known World Fuel Services.

California's Silicon Valley alone attracted nearly $25 billion in venture capital last year, about half of all VC funding invested in the entire country.

In 2014, Florida statewide attracted $863 million in venture capital funding.

Broome, in his Bee piece and on California radio, panned Florida as an economic lightweight run by a governor unpopular in his own state, one that ranks low in education, lacks a renewable energy policy and — laughed Broome playing to his California audience — whose own regulators were allegedly told not to use the word "climate change."

"No state has ever poached their way to long-term prosperity," spokesman Brook Taylor of California's Office of Business and Economic Development told the Chronicle.

Scott's recruiting trip even spawned a digital battle between Florida and California on Twitter using the hash tag #FlvsCa. California posted one telling graphic calling Florida "The Zero State" for its relatively low number of patents (a measure of innovation), its lack of renewable energy compared with California by 2020, and the sharply higher profitability of California companies (given the large volume of tech firms) over their Florida counterparts.

Broome says California is not accustomed to defending itself from the recruiting advances of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and, as Broome suggested, the Perry wanna-be that is Scott.

Said Broome: "When these governors come into California, we have to rough them up."

Rough away. But give some credit to Scott for pitching Florida opportunities while visiting a state with the eighth-largest economy in the world. Surely there are some low-hanging corporate fruits to be plucked with the appeal of lower taxes and cheaper wages, a package of state incentives to sweeten a relocation, and some official (wink, wink) assurances the climate isn't changing in Florida.

Contact Robert Trigaux at rtrigaux@tampabay.com. Follow @venturetampabay.

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