Florida Chamber Foundation Focuses on State's Restraints, the Things That Hold It Back
Around the State
Despite a vast increase in consumer confidence, growth in exports and improved unemployment numbers, Florida still has a lot of work cut out to grow and attract business or get people more involved in their community.
For the Florida Chamber of Commerce that means continuing to work with legislators who, in the past couple of sessions, have been openly amenable to the requests of the powerful Tallahassee-based business organization.
Dale Brill, president of the Chamber Foundation, offered a litany of both the positives and negatives about Florida’s standing in business, education, and individual income on a national scale. He was speaking Tuesday at the chamber’s Future of Florida Forum at Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club in Orlando.
The most glaring stats, released with the latest Florida Workforce Scorecard, focused on education and gross domestic product.
“You can see, the alarming thing is, we’ve fallen from a ranking of fifth in 2011 to a ranking of 11th in 2012,” Brill said of the state’s education system.
The rankings do not include the state’s recent efforts to revamp K-12 education or push for more science, technology, engineering and math degrees at the universities and an emphasis on attracting more high-tech business.
The state ranks 31st in STEM degrees, 38th in science and engineering graduate students and 35th in high-tech industry growth, Brill said.
Brill noted he was speaking as Gov. Rick Scott’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Higher Education had released a preliminary draft that considers asking state universities to increase tuition based upon the major.
A similar proposal to help universities pay for an increase in STEM majors was included in a bill vetoed by Scott last spring.
Even though Florida universities remain a bargain at less than $6,500 for in-state students, despite a 22 percent increase in tuition since 2007, Scott has objected to tuition hikes that could add future debt to the state’s graduates as they enter the work force.
The draft report says the low tuition has fostered conditions that leave Florida universities vulnerable to losing educators and students to other STEM-focused colleges and universities.
"If the foregoing conditions persist, it should be understood by all interested parties that Florida's research universities and, to a lesser extent, all of the institutions are vulnerable to (faculty) 'raids,' some of which have already occurred," the draft states.
Another area in which Florida lags is production, as the individual Floridian has produced $34,639 a year in goods and services, while the national mark is $42,070, Brill said.
Floridians are also not that involved in their communities.
The Chamber found that 21 percent of Floridians volunteer their time, a mark that stands 49th in the nation; 8 percent attend public meetings and 46 percent give to charities (44th in the nation).
And things don’t look like they’re going to change soon.
Only 21 percent of the Millennial Generation, those born starting in the late 1970s, voted in 2010.
Brill said that generation is more open to seeking concensus, which also makes it difficult for them as a whole to make decisions.
Reach Jim Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (772) 215-9889.