Budget conference: Senate agrees to dismantle Enterprise Florida

'I’m not worried about competing with other states right now.'

As Gov. Ron DeSantis greeted Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo, Florida lawmakers were moving to phase out the agency that helped organize and pay for the trip.

The Senate on Monday agreed to eliminate $12 million funding for Enterprise Florida and took steps to remove the program from state laws by Oct. 1, while moving some of its functions into the Department of Economic Opportunity.

Enterprise Florida is a public-private agency tasked with vetting incentive deals to encourage businesses to relocate or expand in the state. It also has overseas offices and organizes trade missions, such as the trip DeSantis is currently on, where he plans to visit South Korea, Israel and the United Kingdom as well.

It was created more than 20 years ago and has survived previous attempts to eliminate the agency, but with soaring revenues and exceptional growth rates, lawmakers were unfazed at the prospect of ending a program dedicated to adding jobs to Florida.

“I’m not worried about competing with other states right now,” said Rep. Alex Andrade, a Pensacola Republican and Chair of the House Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee. “Our economy is going gangbusters right now. I think our policies are proof of it.”

Andrade’s counterpart, Sen. Ed Hooper, a Pinellas Republican, also filed an amendment Monday to rewrite his economic development bill (SB 1664) to phase out Enterprise Florida, move some of its functions into the Department of Economic Opportunity and rename DEO as the Department of Commerce. The Department of Commerce was the legacy name of the agency before lawmakers opted to move to a public-private model for economic development in 1996.

The move mostly aligns with HB 5, a priority for House Speaker Paul Renner, a Palm Coast Republican, who has said Enterprise Florida has “overpromised and underdelivered.”

In 2017, then-House Speaker Richard Corcoran pushed to eliminate Enterprise Florida but then-Gov. Rick Scott pushed back vehemently, striking a last-minute budget deal and saving the program. But the deal got rid of funding for new incentive projects, some of which were criticized as “corporate welfare” by Corcoran. The projects that failed were derided as well, even when reform measures were put in place to ensure job creation goals were met before incentives were paid.

Still, Scott defended the program as vital, especially as the state sought to climb out of the Great Recession in the 2010s. But in the current feel-good economic times, lawmakers aren’t concerned about another downturn and DeSantis hasn’t placed as much importance on the agency.

“Let’s just hope there’s not another bust cycle,” Hooper said. “Let’s work on boom.”

Gray Rohrer


  • JC Lampe

    April 25, 2023 at 10:13 pm

    “Sen. Ed Hooper, a Pensacola”

    Shouldnt that be Pinellas Co.

  • Dont Say FLA

    April 26, 2023 at 8:44 am

    Ron Duh Santies is globe trotting, trying to trade Disney away. He also wants to string barbed wire along the beaches all the way from the Floribama Lounge to the Everglades to keep the arriving boat loads of non-visa’ed immigrant out once they start arriving by boat after he builds that wall Trump promised but failed to build. Yeah, might as well shut down Enterprise Florida. Florida’s done.

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