Florida could soon launch an Office of Blue Economy if a bill sponsored by Democratic Rep. Kelly Skidmore is successful.
Blue economy is a broad term used to describe the ecosystem of industries reliant upon healthy ocean resources — think tourism, fisheries and transportation, among others.
The bill (HB 1081) would establish the office within the Department of Economic Opportunity. Among other purposes, it would promote innovation and provide advocacy for blue economy related issues.
The Boca Raton lawmaker described the office as one “that is looking out for the economic health of the water, would care about its environmental health and work with those agencies to make sure that we’re doing all the right things.”
The office, Skidmore said, would also prioritize research. She characterized oceanic research as the state’s “best kept secret.”
“The research that they are doing is mind blowing,” Skidmore said of universities in Florida.
What good is research, however, if it’s left unnoticed? To that end, the bill would require the office to regularly survey and publish the latest blue economy research by Florida’s colleges and universities. The hope, Skidmore said, is to harmonize the needs of Florida’s business community with university research.
Skeptical? Skidmore points to Gatorade. In 1965, University of Florida scientists developed the drink to quench the thirst of student athletes. In the decades since, Gatorade generated millions for the university and now dominates the sports drink market.
Florida, with the second most shoreline mileage in the nation, should stand out for its prioritization of water and oceanic research, Skidmore argued.
“There’s no office that has this as its goal,” she added. “There’s no office that wants to harness the power of water in Florida, and I think that’s a huge mistake.”
The Office of Blue Economy is part of Skidmore’s larger push for a healthier, more sustainable environment.
Among other proposals, Skidmore is sponsoring a bill (HB 491) that would establish a tax credit to incentivize farmers to set up solar panels on land not being used for agriculture.
The measure is part of a larger environmental package endorsed by Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.
The 2022 Legislative Session begins Jan. 11.