Scott signs economic development overhaulby John Kennedy | June 14th, 2011
Gov. Rick Scott signed into law Tuesday legislation that reshuffles the state’s economic development agencies, while eliminating Florida’s lead growth management department.
Scott signed SB 2156 into law while meeting with Enterprise Florida business leaders in Orlando. The head of the public-private Enterprise Florida, Gray Swoope, who Scott recruited from a similar post in Mississippi, becomes Florida’s secretary of commerce, under the legislation.
The legislation also consolidates much of the state’s economic development efforts under a new Department of Economic Opportunity.
“In today’s globally competitive marketplace, Florida must be able to respond quickly and decisively when business opportunities come our way,” Scott said. “The bill I signed today provides us flexibility to seize opportunities created by developing markets and effectively respond to the changing needs of the businesses that grow our economy.”
Scott wanted to command the state’s job recruitment efforts from his office, and be given virtual complete control over millions of dollars in incentive money formerly steered by the state’s Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development.
The legislation eliminates OTTED. But lawmakers were reluctant to give Scott all the authority he wanted. Instead, Scott was given the go-ahead to approve incentive awards of less than $2 million without legislative approval, while a simple notice to legislative leaders is needed when the governor puts as much as $5 million on the table for any company or industry eyeing Florida.
Awards topping $5 million require approval from the 14-member Legislative Budget Commission.
Scott campaigned for governor with the pledge that he would create 700,000 jobs in seven years. He has touted his efforts as helping reduce the state’s unemployment to 10.8 percent, still among the highest rates in the nation.
Environmentalists had urged Scott to veto the legislation, since it abolishes the Department of Community Affairs, which they say threatens future state oversight of development projects.
Scott’s early efforts at luring companies to Florida also have proved uneven, according to many analysts.
Last week, Scott used a trade mission to Canada to announce the decision by Garda Worldwide Security to relocate its U.S. headquarters to Boca Raton from California, bringing with it 1oo jobs. Palm Beach County officials said the move was agreed to months ago, clouding Scott’s role in the development.
Meanwhile, Scott signed a $69.1 billion state budget last month that is spawning thousands of job cuts in school boards, health and social service providers, and in many state government agencies.