Mark Wilson: Florida Must Expand From Reliance on Ag, Tourism, Construction

By: Jim Turner | Posted: September 6, 2012 4:00 PM
Mark Wilson

Florida Chamber President Mark Wilson

Floridians shouldn’t expect the economy to ever revert to how it was built pre-recession, the head of the Florida Chamber of Commerce told small-business owners Thursday.

Not that a full recovery won’t happen, but Florida Chamber President Mark Wilson said that the biggest parts of Florida's economic engine must expand from what have been the three dominant pillars for decades: agriculture, tourism and construction.

“If Florida was a country, with a GDP of $750 billion, we’d be the 20th largest economy in the world, and it’s time for us to start looking at ourselves that way,” Wilson told a gathering of small-business owners from across Florida invited to the two-day Small-Business Leadership Forum at the Westin Harbour Island Hotel in Tampa.

“We’re a big deal, we have big opportunities. People want to do business with Florida and that means small-business opportunities.”

He added that Florida doesn’t need to replace any of the big-three pillars. But instead, Florida must add to its commercial base as the state grows by approximately 200 people a day. At that growth rate, the state would need to grow 2 million jobs by 2020 to have an unemployment rate that is down to 6 percent.

“You can’t go back to the kind of economy we had before,” Wilson said. “We can’t go back to being cheap. We have to create an ecosystem and a small-business marketplace that meets the opportunity of the new economy we’re building to.”

The forum is being put on by Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Florida State University's Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship.

Atwater is using the forum to provide small-business owners with information on access to capital, matters of human resources, and potentially linking them with mentors and investors.   

“There is a great concern about financing the growth that is to come,” Atwater said.

At the same time, he will be mining for issues the state could use to improve the state’s business climate and possibly help push for the repeal of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, better known as Dodd-Frank, named after sponsors Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., and Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass.

Reach Jim Turner at or at (772) 215-9889.

Comments (3)

1:07PM SEP 7TH 2012
and of course from the leftist leaning Chamber, that means support for high speed rail, climate change and subsidizing "green energy". How sad they seem to have devolved into the champions of crony capitalism.
Doug Poretz
10:44AM SEP 7TH 2012
I am really thrilled to see this. But it isn't an issue of Obama, right or left. And if we try to focus on whom to blame we will not focus on getting an accurate analysis of the situation, and that means we will never get a solution that works. So: Cut the crap and get on with the job. Start with the correct analysis.

The country and the world is not going through a normal recession and it is not only going through an economic situation. It is going through a fundamental shift from the Manufacturing Economy to the Knowledge Economy, which is a process rather than an event and will ultimately have as much significance as the shift from the Agrarian Economy to the Manufacturing Economy. Today, we recognize that shift as "The Industrial Revolution" and it is so important in human history that we start learning about it around the time of fifth grade history. Someday what we are going through right now will be branded also in revolutionary terms, but right now the important thing we have to understand is that we are somewhere in the process of living through a similarly fundamental revolution.

We do not know where that revolution will end up, but we do know certain things -- one being that whereas hard assets (property, plant and equipment) have been the most important assets in the Manufacturing Economy, human (soft) assets are the most important assets in the Knowledge Economy. Hard assets depreciate over time and eventually need to be replaced, but they can be placed behind a fence or in a locked building and you are certain they will be there tomorrow. Human assets, which actually appreciate over time both in individual and organizational terms, have legs and they can move. Businesses will go where they can tap a great pool of human assets. And what is this state doing? Gutting its university system. Failing to put money into all those things that improve the quality of life for Knowledge Workers. Giving more lip service and taking check-the-box-we've-done-something actions rather than taking the really critical solid commitment of money, time and policies that will be necessary to compete in the global Knowledge Economy.

This state has to do much more than talk about how the economy must change, as Mr. Wilson rightfully asserts -- and bravo to him for doing that. Now, the state has to take a long view, across the Next Horizon, to see what Florida will look like as a vital growing Knowledge Economy. And then it needs to prepare for that realistically -- "realistically" being the operative word.
6:10PM SEP 6TH 2012
Finally, acknowledgement that Obama isn't the reason the economy has not fully recovered: "shouldn’t expect the economy to ever revert to how it was built pre-recession" . . ."You can’t go back to the kind of economy we had before".

But foolishly, they want to revert to the "no-rules" financing that almost created another Great Depression. . . . . . Sad . . . . . . . . . . . . . . and depressing . . . . . . . . . . .

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