THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, Jan. 27, 2011 --
Saying the state must streamline or perish, Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday told business leaders he wants to resurrect a Department of Commerce under his control that would coordinate economic development efforts from an office “two doors down” from his own.
Speaking to board members at Enterprise Florida’s annual meeting, Scott told the group that businesses now face a labyrinth of agencies when they consider relocating to the state, duplicity of effort that Scott says is costing jobs and has to stop.
“When you don’t have one person looking over everything, it makes it more difficult to get things done,” Scott told reporters after his appearance before the board. “I’ll have a hard time holding somebody accountable for this if I don’t have a person responsible for it.”
The department was abolished in 1996 at the behest of then-Gov. Lawton Chiles.
Scott envisions a department run by a secretary appointed by the governor who would be responsible for taking the lead and coordinating efforts from Enterprise Florida, the Agency for Workforce Development and the Office of Tourism Trade and Economic Development (OTTED).
Scott’s proposal brought immediate kudos by the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida, which said they were encouraged by Scott’s aggressive assertions that his office would be responsible for coordinating efforts to get companies to do business in Florida.
“What I heard from the governor is that he is going to say is “I - Rick Scott - I’m responsible for job creation and I’m going to bring this into my office...so that everyone knows who to call for job creation,” said Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
Business leaders have long complained Florida is losing business to other states because of the state’s cumbersome permitting process and a redundancy of effort between competing agencies.
“The fact that Gov. Scott will be so engaged in this new agency, to the point where it will be elevated to ‘Plaza Level’ status, is more than encouraging,” AIF President Barney Bishop said in a statement. “It’s the promise of a new day when Floridians aren’t looking for work, but actually getting to work. “
Lawmakers in 1996 abolished the Department of Commerce, which critics argued had become a political chit that had become ineffective in enticing business into the state. The department’s functions were divided up among a group of other agencies including OTTED, Enterprise Florida and more recently other groups including Space Florida.
Jeb Bush, before he was governor, was secretary of the agency under former Gov. Bob Martinez.
Scott said he envisions a commerce department that would have control over economic development funding, including tax incentives and rebates now appropriated by the Legislature. He said details of his proposal would accompany the release of his budget request on Feb. 7.
“I’ve been calling companies since the second of November,” Scott said. “People want to do business in Florida. We need to make that easier.”