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Spigot shuns small businesses

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  • | 11:00 a.m. March 18, 2016
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Subsidies designed to woo businesses to Florida or stay in the state overwhelmingly favor big corporations over small companies, according to a new study.

The findings come from Good Jobs First, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that tracks subsidies and promotes economic development accountability. The organization's report, Slicing the Budget Pie, probed data from economic development in three states, Florida, Missouri and New Mexico. Florida, says the report's authors, has a winner-take-all mentality, where 69%, or $93 million of the state's economic development dollars in recent years have gone to large companies. Large businesses are defined in the study under subsidy deals with more than 150 jobs required.

“There's a galling mismatch between how governors and other state officials characterize their support for small businesses and what they actually spend,” Good Jobs First Executive Director Greg LeRoy says in a statement. “With Florida lawmakers rejecting the governor's request for $250 million more for Enterprise Florida, our findings suggest that lawmakers were prudent to save those funds for other ways to support the entrepreneurial economy.”

The findings for Florida include:

One in five dollars of Florida's economic development spending goes to small businesses;

The Innovation Incentive Program created in 2006 to attract science and technology research and development projects paid out $765.7 million through 2103 to 10 large, well-established companies, including aerospace giant Embraer and Scripps;

At least 70% of economic development dollars in the following programs went to large companies: Urban Jobs Tax Credit, at 73%; Brownfield Redevelopment Bonus, 83%; Quick Response Training, 83%; Economic Development Transportation Fund 85%;

Every dollar in the Qualified Defense and Space Contractor Tax Refund went to large companies, and large companies took in 97% of Quick Action Closing Fund dollars.

Large companies hauled in 89% of subsidies from the Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund.

The study tracks incentive spending from the state, not individual counties. But multiple large firms have received or been approved for performance-based subsidies in exchange for jobs from individual counties in recent years. The list includes Naples-based medical device manufacturer Arthrex for a Collier County expansion; health care giant Johnson & Johnson in Hillsborough County; Coca-Cola enterprises, which received $30,000 from Hillsborough County in fiscal year 2011 for 200 jobs; Car rental company Hertz, in its relocation to Lee County from New Jersey; Feld Entertainment in Manatee County; and Venice-based impact resistant window manufacturer PGT in Sarasota County.

Here's a snapshot of Good Jobs First's Subsidy Tracker for Florida:



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