In praise of Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida
Thanks to the efforts of Gov. Rick Scott and the state's committed business leaders, Florida has one of the strongest economies in the country. With our unemployment rate under 5%, Florida continues to exceed the nation's annual job growth rate and tourism, one of the state's economic drivers remains strong, with just under 113 million visitors in 2016, an increase from just 86 million visitors just three years ago.
Much of this success has been a result of Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida.
Their contributions are critical to our state's recovery and continue to be important drivers in Florida's economic well-being. The two organizations are responsible for helping create thousands of jobs in conjunction with private businesses, and the organizations allow us to compete with other states for businesses and visitors, many of whom have significantly increased their business and tourism marketing programs to entice companies and visitors.
It is important to have a business climate that allows companies to flourish, people to be able to find high-paying jobs and to ensure that we are economically competitive on a national level.
Political differences in the Capitol are putting the success of the Sunshine State at risk. Members in the Florida House have filed numerous pieces of legislation taking aim at Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. The bills call for drastic cuts or the complete elimination of the two public-private partnerships, outcomes that would undoubtedly slow down or even reverse the good economic fortune of Florida.
As an employer of hundreds, I hear every day how important it is for Florida families to have good jobs that pay well and build a more prosperous future for our children.
We must compete with the millions each year of incentives paid by other states, counties and municipalities. The data also backs up the power of tourism marketing in attracting visitors to the Sunshine State. Continuing to fund Visit Florida will bring hundreds of millions of people to the state. Every 76 visitors to Florida support one job. This investment is diversifying the Florida economy, creating jobs and improving the income of Floridians.
If the Legislature were to make significant cuts to, or eliminate, Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, it will put Florida at an economic disadvantage versus the rest of the nation, stifling job creation and slowing economic development and extinguish the hopes of hundreds of thousands of Florida workers who seek a more prosperous future. We must continue to fund our incentive and tourism marketing programs. We must remain a state open for business.
— Pat Neal, Neal Communities, Lakewood Ranch
(This letter was submitted as a an op-ed column by Neal, a former state senator. Neal is chairman-elect for the Board of Directors of Florida TaxWatch.)