The Florida Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday recognized Gov. Rick Scott with its “Spirit of Free Enterprise” award for his “laser-focused” effort to bring jobs to Florida and boost the state’s economy.
“I said earlier today that if Florida was a stock, I would buy it,” Florida Chamber CEO Mark Wilson said, adding that he was curious whether Scott’s exit after two terms in the Governor’s Mansion would impact his outlook.
Scott, who is challenging incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in the fall, was introduced as the “next U.S. Senator from the state of Florida” when he walked out to a standing ovation at the Chamber’s 2018 Future of Florida Forum.
“That’s a real honor,” Scott said. “First off, I don’t get to travel much with my wife, so I’m happy she could be here.”
Scott, often referred to as the “jobs governor,” touched on several stats and metrics achieved during his tenure in Tallahassee, from the state’s bounce back from the job losses brought about by the Great Recession to the rising rankings of Florida’s public universities.
“For any Gators out there, the University of Florida is the eighth-best public university,” he said. “For the Seminoles, Florida State is in the top-25 and five of our universities are in the top-100.
“Years ago these are things that people were saying about California. Now people are saying all these things about Florida,” Scott said.
The Chamber has given out the Spirit of Freedom award only once before, to Wayne Huizenga Sr., in 2010. Huizenga, a businessman and co-owner of several South Florida professional sports franchises, died this year at the age of 80.
“I did quite a bit of business with Wayne Huizenga,” Scott said. “When I called him up and told him I was going to run for Governor years ago, he just laughed. ‘Why would you do that to yourself.'”
Huizenga’s son, Wayne Huizenga Jr., was alongside Scott on the stage and said he knew his father was “a big fan looking down from heaven.”
Scott also gave a bit of a call to action for his Senate campaign.
“People say it’s all about money. It’s not,” Scott said, encouraging the crowd at the Florida Chamber event to get involved in the 2018 elections.