State business leaders and the Florida Economic Development Council (FEDC) Thursday issued an early kickoff for economic development week at the State Capitol.
The non-profit includes business, education and government leaders seeking to elevate the economic competitiveness of the Sunshine State. Florida Economic Development Week, beginning Sunday, is an opportunity for advocates to highlight business initiatives like the qualified target industry tax refund program or VISIT FLORIDA.
“Economic development, in all of its various disciplines, is vital to Florida’s competitiveness and prosperity,” said FEDC chair Kelly Smallridge. “The FEDC and our business workforce and education partners believe that, as an engine for progress, economic development should be recognized through a dedicated week.”
And Andra Cornelius, senior vice president of CareerSource Florida said securing high-skilled jobs is an economic necessity in the modernizing economy.
“Florida Economic Development Week is the perfect time to highlight how Florida works to meet businesses’ talent needs,” she said .
Jamal Sowell, President and CEO of Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development arm, said Florida is attracting international businesses and unprecedented investment. Next week, the International Economic Development Council will meet in Tampa for its annual leadership summit.
“This diversification in growth in Florida manufacturing is thanks, in no small part, to the qualified target industry tax rebate program known as QTI,” he said.
Sen. Joe Gruters filed a bill (SB 922) to extend the life the QTI tax refund, which sunsets at the end of June. That bill awaits a hearing in its second of three committees.
Education is also a big part of building and maintaining a better economy. Companies hoping to relocate to or expand in Florida need access to a quality workforce.
Joe Pickens, President of St. Johns River College and a former state Representative, said his school has added numerous certificates and degrees in the last 10 years, including bachelor’s degrees.
“More importantly, we’ll be offering degrees that we haven’t thought of yet,” he said. “That’s the type of nimble movement that the Florida College System institutions represent and the type of reaction and action that Florida needs.”
The Sarasota Republican touted a recent initiative by the online marketing firm AdHawk to create new jobs in his hometown.
Sowell also highlighted the importance of funding the state’s tourism advertising arm, VISIT FLORIDA. The program, called wasteful by House Speaker José Oliva, has a rocky fate despite the Senate approving $52.5 million to fund it and extend its life for another eight years. It’s also set to sunset in June without legislative action.
“When you think Florida, when you think of post-hurricane, the importance of VISIT FLORIDA when it comes to marking the state to let people know outside of Florida that we’re open for business when it comes to the Panhandle, rural Florida,” Sowell said.