Enterprise Florida losing fight for $250 million incentives fund?


Enterprise Florida was on the defensive Thursday as the state’s chief economist threw cold water on Gov. Rick Scott‘s proposed $250 million Florida Enterprise Fund.

The Senate’s Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development held a workshop on the proposal.

Amy Baker, head of the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research, told lawmakers the governor’s proposal would have a less than 1 percent “return on investment” for the state.

Afterward, panel Chairman Jack Latvala made clear that Scott wasn’t going to get exactly what he wanted.

He said he filed what amounted to “a shell bill” for economic development next fiscal year, adding that he felt “strongly that bills of this nature should be developed in a collaborative fashion.”

“So we’re here on a blank slate when it comes to economic development,” said Latvala, a Clearwater Republican.

But, he said, it will include incentives for television and film production because it was a priority of his and GOP state Sen. Nancy Detert, who’s in her last year in the Senate.

“We can’t look at economic development without including it,” Latvala said. ” … Any bill that passes the Florida Senate on economic development will include provisions for TV and film.”

Earlier, Chief Operating Officer Crystal Sircy — the No. 2 official at Enterprise Florida — countered that Baker’s analysis used aged economic data and didn’t extrapolate the fund’s effect out long enough.

Latvala asked her what “big-dollar deals are out there that you think you can get that we’re not able to approach because we don’t have the money?”

Sircy said the organization might entice more $20 million to $30 million deals, as opposed to $100 million deals, “if we can point at the lump sum” in the bank.

She has previously told legislators the $250 million wouldn’t be an annual request and is expected to last “several years.”

But other states have smaller funds, including Georgia’s $46 million program, which was able to woo the Mercedes-Benz automaker to build a U.S. headquarters near Atlanta over Florida.

“The analysis presented in committee today assumes companies will come to Florida with a pay-as-you-go model; they won’t,” said Jackie Schutz, Gov. Scott’s communications director, in a statement. “Businesses do not work on bureaucratic timelines and need certainty from the state, which pay-as-you-go fails to do.

The governor “would not support legislation that includes a pay-as-you-go system because it will make Florida less competitive for job creation projects,” she added. “The new $250 million Florida Enterprise fund mirrors our number one competitor for jobs, Texas, which has successfully diversified their economy and supported small businesses by establishing funds that don’t revert.”

Jim Rosica

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at [email protected]


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