DEO Press Releases

What They Are Saying - Florida Economic Development and Tourism Leaders Fight to Save Florida Jobs

Feb 08, 2017

Florida Economic Development and Tourism Leaders Fight to Save Florida Jobs 


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Florida economic development and tourism leaders, small business owners, and concerned Floridians from across the state traveled to Tallahassee to speak or stand in opposition to Legislation in the Florida House that would kill Florida jobs by eliminating Enterprise Florida and VISIT FLORIDA.

Donna McBride, Straz Center for the Performing Arts, Tampa: “This bill could cost the state of Florida tax revenue and jobs. Just a five percent drop in visitors means a loss of $5.5 billion in revenue for the state, $563 million in taxes and 70,00 jobs. We understand the need to cut costs and to take a close look at reduce invectives, but first and foremost we need to be looking at jobs.”

Lisa Barnes, Eastern Ship Building: “We just secured a contract with the U.S. Coast Guard to build their next generation of off-shore patrol cutters. This contract has a potential value of $10.5 billion and at full ramp up we will have six vessels under construction with 800-1,000 people who are dedicated to those vessels. We won this through our superior design and leadership but the primary driver was affordability. That’s all we heard- every time we went to a meeting. After the first five vessels, we are going to have to recomplete this project. One of our nearest competitors is Chouest Shipbuilding in Mississippi. Chouest Shipbuilding got $35 million in infrastructure from the State of Mississippi and $1 million in workforce training. We’re talking about a level playing field- it’s hard for us to be a level playing field when other states are helping their businesses.”

Eric Fletcher, Allegiant Air: “In 2005 Allegiant started flying to the State of Florida. We flew 50,000 passengers that year, last year we flew 3.1 million passengers, this year we’re forecasting to fly 3.7 million. We got to those numbers, that quick growth, with the help of VISIT FLORIDA. They helped us negotiate discounted media buys, they helped us by giving demographic area. We now have 37 of our 85 planes based in Florida- that means pilots, flight attendants, mechanics, etc. We have more planes coming on in the next two years and we’re looking for places to place them. VISIT FLORIDA and the State has helped us base them here so we now have approximately 2,000 jobs bringing in 3 million tourists a year, and we’d love to continue that.”

Keith Overton, TradeWinds Island Grand Resort: “We own and operate the largest resort on the west coast of Florida. We have about 1,100 employees, 35 acres on the Gulf of Mexico, it’s a small business, but a big business. We choose to not have representation through a Marriott or a Hilton because Florida has such a strong brand and presence; we can get away with not having that reach. I fear that if you eliminate VISIT FLORIDA, our voice, the independent hotelier voice, will be lost. We parley our money into their $75 million, the CVB’s parley their money into it, it’s a big spend, it’s tremendously important.”

Ed Henderson, Shenandoah Dairy, Live Oak: “I’m a small business owner [in Live Oak]. We currently milk about 134 hundred cows, employing over 90 people. One of the challenges that we run into is it’s just not a level playing field out there. I’m a capitalist guy –I believe in the capitalist system– but we’re not dealing with a level set of playing rules out there. There are other states out there that are trying to attract daires, trying to attack businesses. And we are trying to complete with that and trying to maintain a viable agricultural business in the State of Florida. I think of the challenges that we run into in our small communities is that we are just one little economic disaster away from losing a big business and having economic devastation in Suwanee County.”

Roger Dow, U.S. Travel Association: “…I see every one of the states, I see 400 and 500 destinations, and let me tell you, this is not a zero-sum game. You heard about Pennsylvania- they cut their little budget by $20 million and lost $600 million in tax revenue over five years. You heard about Colorado- they eliminated their small department and the state lost, over five years, $134 million. It was said by a representative that Florida is different. Yes, Florida is different. It is a tourism economy. If you take this economy on, I can guarantee you the loss of tens of thousands of jobs, billions of dollars. California is thrilled that you’re having this bill because they have raised their budge to $110 million when it used to be $50 [million]. I moved here because it is a no income tax state, but the bottom line is you have no choice- if you pass this bill, you are going to go to either an income tax state or increase sales taxes or cut services, and that’s not acceptable.”

Amy Lukasik, Flagler County Board of County Commissioners: “Following Hurricane Matthew, within days, VISIT FLORIDA and the FRLA made it a priority to visit with us. They viewed our damage and they had conversations on how they could help us overcome the national attention we received saying our destination was closed for business. At VISIT FLORIDA’s expense, they hired a video production company and through assistance of our office produced four videos with two more committed- in rapid fire they were posted by paid advertisement on the Google network display and all of their social media platforms. Collectively, over 3.2 million people viewed the video within one month’s span and it’s growing. On our behalf and also on their expense, VISIT FLORIDA pitched a culinary trail feature of our destination with a focus on Flagler County and provided us with additional co-op programs at a rate that we could never afford on our own. The effort has shown dividends to our small business owners. In just one month, our collections rose 16 percent over the previous years. This would have never happened without the support of VISIT FLORIDA.”

Carol Dover, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA): “If you had been here when VISIT Florida was designed by the Legislature in ’95-’96… we spent about a decade where the Legislature earmark $28 million, $32 million, but always ranged between the $25-35 million range. We could not break the ceiling of the 80, 82, 85 million visitors. We couldn’t do it. And ultimately, we got the additional funding, we broke the ceiling, and today we sit at 106 million visitors and climbing.”

Scarlett Phaneuf, The Bay Economic Development Alliance: “Because we are a local economic development organization, everything we do involves Enterprise Florida. We work together in ways that transcend brokering incentives. We prove a whole host of services.”

Mike Meidel, Pinellas County Economic Development: “The fundamental presuppositions to this bill are wrong. Economic development is all about creating opportunity for every business and every citizen in the State of Florida. What we try to do is create more money in the local economy. We don’t target winners ans losers, we create winner for everybody. We do that by identifying companies that sell their product or service outside of the State of Florida, they bring that new money into our economy, they distribute it into the economy through the payrolls of their high wage employees who have strong discretionary income to buy locally from the retailers establishments from dry cleaners, from personal services, from lawyers, from realtors, from everyone in the local economy that does that secondary transactional type economy. But without having that original money, we cannot even go any further.”

Paul Carlilse, Glades County: “We rely on Enterprise Florida and VISIT FLORIDA. We’re a rural community of economic opportunity. Most people think Florida on the west coast stops at I-75, and on the east coast they think it stops at the Turnpike and north they think it stops at I-4. We have no other way to get our message out other than through the economic incentives through Enterprise Florida and VISIT FLORIDA… We need to take a que from our corporate partners, we don’t want to stop advertising now. Coca Cola, one of the most noticeable brands in the country, spends billions of dollars on advertising. They don’t stop advertising because they lead- they keep advertising because they want to maintain that.”


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