Governor Rick Scott job czar claims 21,000 future new jobs

May 10, 2012

The following article was published in the Orlando Sentinel on May 10, 2012:

Rick Scott jobs’ czar claims 21,000 future new jobs

By Aaron Deslatte

Although most of the details are still shrouded from public view, Gov. Rick Scott’s jobs czar said Thursday that the state’s array of economic-incentive programs have helped “establish” more than 21,000 jobs since last July.

Those aren’t jobs that exist now, but ones companies have agreed to create over time in exchange for taxpayer incentives that often total millions of dollars.

That figure represents a 67 percent increase over the same period a year earlier, a point Scott himself underscored in noting his relentless focus on company recruitment and job growth.

“I don’t know if past administrations haven’t made it as much a priority,” Scott said to the legislators, corporate executives and lobbyists on the board.

“In 16 months, we have clearly changed the direction of this state,” he said.

Enterprise Florida CEO Gray Swoope told the public-private business organization that the performance of the state’s job-creation arm had been “unbelievable” and that the country was taking notice of efforts to make Florida more friendly to businesses.

Still, most of the job growth is coming from companies already located in Florida, rather than those recruited here by the governor. In all, 57 percent were being “established” by in-state employers such as Publix, which is building a new distribution center in Central Florida and drawing taxpayer dollars for it.

Only 6 percent of the new jobs were slated to come from the Northeast, and 7 percent from the West Coast — the two high-tax, high-regulation regions that are home to businesses Scott has said should relocate to Florida.

Florida has added a net of 88,300 jobs since Scott took office 16 months ago. But as many news organizations and economists have noted, it’s difficult at this point in his still-young administration to attribute a specific portion of that growth to the governor’s economic program.

Swoope’s presentation to the Enterprise Florida board in Jacksonville focused on the period since the fiscal year began last July 1 — which also marked the first time virtually any of the governor’s economic proposals took effect, including $93 million in incentives. He said the state had “established” 21,574 jobs during the period.

Swoope stressed that the figure did not represent jobs already in place, but those pledged as companies “ramp up.”

Of the totals, 36 percent were in manufacturing; 16 percent in information technology; and 14 percent in “life science.”

History has demonstrated that not all those jobs are likely to materialize.

From 1995 through 2008, companies tapping Florida’s “Qualified Target Industry” program — one of a dozen different programs that gives tax refunds to companies for creating high-wage jobs – managed to produce 57 percent of the 130,000 jobs they had initially pledged to create, at a cost of $148 million.

That picture worsened since 2008, as companies getting QTI incentives created only 15 percent of the 40,000 jobs promised — and were paid only $2.8 million of the $164.5 million awarded.

Most of the details of these new pledged jobs are confidential under Florida law, so there’s no way to easily determine when they are due to materialize — or to confirm the validity of Swoope’s jobs prediction down the road.

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