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Enterprise Florida works ‘back channels’ to connect with Rick Scott’s successor

With Rick Scott leaving the governor’s office in January, Enterprise Florida is preparing for life without its biggest supporter.

The business-development agency, which Scott has helped defend from attacks by the Florida House, has been working “back channels” with the campaigns of Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum to make both more aware of the agency’s reach and roles.

“Obviously, Enterprise Florida, where we go will have a great deal (to do) with who wins the governor’s race,” Executive Vice President Mike Grissom, who made the back channels reference, said Tuesday, without expounding on just how each candidate could be expected to reshape the agency.

Enterprise Florida President and CEO Pete Antonacci expressed a little more confidence that there won’t be dramatic changes regardless of the winner of the Nov. 6 gubernatorial contest.

“I continue to be optimistic about people when they are exposed to a set of facts, a set of facts could be persuasive,” Antonacci, who was Scott’s general counsel at the end of the governor’s first term, told members of the public-private agency’s Executive Committee. “I think we’ll be able to persuade the next governor of the value that this board provides and the value of the organization.”

The agency’s 62-member board of directors includes the governor, who serves as the chair, and six of his appointees.

Former staff members from the agency are working for both campaigns, and Grissom offered advice Tuesday to get local business officials to meet with House and Senate candidates.

“The best time in the world to get in contact with your state representatives and state senators is when they’re first getting in,” Grissom said. “We’re going to have a nice big crop of House members this year that we have an opportunity of getting to early and talking about economic development.”

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican who will leave office in November, has been a major critic during the past two years of state funding for economic-development incentives and Enterprise Florida.

Corcoran’s successor, incoming House Speaker Jose Oliva, a Miami Lakes Republican, is expected to take a similar stance on opposing direct incentives for businesses.

Scott clashed with the Republican-dominated House over the incentives issue until a compromise was reached that resulted in the governor getting an annual $85 million pool to spend on regional infrastructure and worker-training programs.

Neither DeSantis nor Gillum is expected to match Scott’s support for incentive money.

The News Service of Florida provides journalists, lobbyists, government officials and other civic leaders with comprehensive, objective information about the activities of state government year-round.

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