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Jamal Sowell sees veterans, military industry as key to Florida’s economic future

“We want to tell veterans they have a place here to make home.”

On Tuesday morning in Jacksonville, the Florida Chamber Military, Defense and Veterans summit continued with a panel discussion.

The subject: The “military, defense, and homeland security marketplace.”

Enterprise Florida CEO Jamal Sowell was the biggest name on the panel, along with a series of industry leaders, all with a shared goal: to take advantage of Florida’s competitive advantage as it relates to the defense industry.

“We have a natural history … a brand that people cannot buy,” Sowell said. “Because of that brand, geography … other states cannot replicate what we have. Because we have that, we sell that.”

Sowell discusses the other unique value adds, including low taxes: “Florida is so unique, more unique than anywhere else.”

The proof of the pudding: the aerospace and military industries.

Sowell, a former Marine who went from enlisted to officer, learned about contractors in the military. Young veterans, he added, know things that the average civilian would not know.

“If someone can dissemble a Howitzer blindfolded with someone yelling at you, that means you’re skilled at what you do,” Sowell said.

He noted that Florida is “uniquely placed to market what we have to companies outside the state.”

“We want to tell those veterans that they have a place here to make home,” Sowell added.

CareerSource and other educational opportunities, for veterans and their families, are key to marketing the state.

“A lot of veterans want to stay here for that reason,” Sowell added.

The Talent Development Council, part of DEO, “coordinates with businesses” and higher education institutions as well, Sowell noted.

“The focus is on creating jobs and having the talent to fill those jobs,” Sowell said, with the TDC helping to match skill sets to openings.

Sowell noted also that Florida is working to recruit companies.

With tools like the $40 million Job Growth Grant Fund and Qualified Tax Incentives, the executive branch can “recruit companies and let the world know they are welcome here.”

“We want them to stay in Florida,” Sowell said. “We tell people we have the tools.”

The Legislature provides the tools, Sowell added, for a “very thorough, detailed process that the state does.”

Sowell has made that pitch as far away as the Paris Air Show, he added.

The remarks of Sowell and the other panelists jibed with the thoughts of Chamber President Mark Wilson, who asserted the importance of boosting the defense industry in his remarks earlier on Tuesday morning.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a correspondent for since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at

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Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson, and Kelly Hayes.
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