Dane Eagle touts shifts in Gov. DeSantis’ economic approach compared to Rick Scott administration
Dane Eagle speaks to SWFL Inc. Photo by Jacob Ogles

Dane Eagle
'You want to strive to have the lowest unemployment possible.'

Dane Eagle made his way back to Southwest Florida to tout the economic success of Gov. Ron DeSantis economic policies. “We have added jobs 27 consecutive months to the state of Florida,” said Eagle, Secretary of the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO).

As a former state lawmaker representing Cape Coral, the address at the SWFL Inc. State of the Region served as a bit of a victory lap. He discussed economic policy successes, system improvements at DEO and the policy changes dating back to his time in the Legislature. He also sat down with Florida Politics to discuss topics further.

How does Southwest Florida compare in terms of job recovery to the rest of the state?

Dane Eagle: For Southwest Florida, job creation over the last 10 years is up almost 30%, which is incredible. That’s twice the rate of the state as a whole. So Southwest Florida’s recovery improved dramatically compared to other areas when it comes to not only the Great Recession, but during the pandemic. We’re bouncing back. It’s been wonderful. The opportunities here are great.

You touted the state’s 2.7% unemployment rate, but there are some economists starting to argue low unemployment could be contributing to inflation. Is there any concern about whether unemployment is too low?

DE: I’ve never heard that. I think you want to strive to have the lowest unemployment possible. People are working and the good news about our low employment right now is there’s more people working or more jobs in the economy.

So while our unemployment rate is the same as it was pre-pandemic, we’re actually healthier because there are more jobs and there are more people working. That’s a great thing. But that is not going to be a contributing factor to inflation. That’s going to help people find a stable market wage rate. It’s the money that’s infused in the economy that isn’t tied to job creation, and typical free market principles, that’s going to cause inflation.

You also mentioned just 14% of job openings right now require bachelor’s degrees. Are we still seeing jobs being created with good incomes, especially considering the impacts of inflation?

DE: Yes, and certainly there are jobs for all for all different markets and all needs. There are good incomes tied to these jobs. What we’re trying to do in Florida is invest in that.

So yes, not every job requires that bachelor’s degree, but not every job that pays six figures requires a bachelor’s degree, and that’s what we’re investing in as a state through the Governor’s workforce initiative. Whether that’s in trading, transportation, CDL (commercial driver’s) licenses, we’ve seen a number of opportunities there. That only requires a high school equivalency, but it requires training and you can go work making six figures on day one.

We’ve learned about air traffic controller needs, we’ve learned about drone operators, which is a big thing in the future. Those do not require a four-year degree but if the state can invest in those workforce programs, there is a need there and folks can make six figures without going to college and being in debt.

So these are not traditional white collar jobs that are at these incomes?

DE: The needs are proving that you can have your blue-collar job and have a good income with it.

You discussed a change in the way incentives have changed at the same level in this administration from the past. Not long ago, we had a Republican Governor feuding the members of the Legislature on this issue. What has changed as far as philosophy with incentivizing companies to locate and expand in Florida?

DE: I remember that well. If there is an employer that’s coming to the state of Florida, certainly if they agree to invest in a community, to create a certain amount of jobs, there are tax incentive opportunities available and that’s on the back end. You have got to commit to creating jobs, investing in the community and paying a certain wage to be able to qualify for those tax incentives.

But what we’re doing by not giving up cash on the front end is we’re saying we’re going to treat you like every other job creator in the state of Florida. You’re going to come down here and compete with them. But the good news is we’ve already created a business-friendly environment so that you can compete. The difference is we’re not going to give you their tax dollars so you can compete with them.

How is that significantly different than under the last gubernatorial administration?

DE: In the past, you’ve seen cash handouts in the front end, and the problem with that is there’s no guarantee that they’re going to make the commitment that they say they’re going to do. It is a contractual obligation, but then you got to go claw back the funds.

And then there’s a philosophical argument in the first place of is this even the right thing to do? And the state decided that’s not what we’re going to do. What we do is invest on the back end if we do invest at all, but regardless, we’re going to invest in communities and that’s the best way to let the community decide how they’re going to grow and attract job creators. But the state will help that community do so.

The administration just provided a grant for workforce to the Collier County Schools. Will we see more of that in the future?

DE: The one that we did with the Collier County School District is very unique, and I want to say one of the first of its kind in the state. Collier County is actually partnering with Immokalee, where there are tremendous needs in that area, and unemployment exists in the whole Glades-Hendry County area, where traditionally it’s agricultural service oriented.

There are a lot of other needs in the area, but we don’t have the training capability to help with those needs, whether that’s nursing, transportation, whatever it might be. We are now investing in career opportunities where they might have a job now and it may not be the job they want. Well, if they go take these classes at night or weekends, they can better themselves and their families in a short amount of time.

The state has invested in its unemployment system after the pandemic. Can the system now handle a major crash like the one that struck the system in 2020?

DE: We’re a lot better off than we were due to the quick measures that DEO took even before I got there during the pandemic.

You know, over the course of those first few weeks in March and February, the system just couldn’t take it and the department quickly stood up measures to make sure that it could do better and it has done better and we continue to modernize. I will say that the program that we set out on the modernization program doesn’t finish until June of 2023, so we still have got just under a year to go to make sure that it is where we want it to be.

And what if we have an event more like the Great Recession?

DE: We saw that the system could handle it. It did last time. What you saw with the Great Recession was unemployment, if you look at the bar charts, unemployment over time gradually went up over a long period.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].

One comment

  • Elliott O

    August 31, 2022 at 12:10 pm

    “We’ve created a gigantic low wage slave plantation in Florida. We’ve convinced so many to work for what the equivalent of $6 an hour was back in 1997. They’ll almost work for food money only!!!! This is a huge victory!!!!” – Florida hog grifter

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