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Politics

Rick Scott: Enterprise Florida Is Doing a Good Job

February 13, 2013 - 6:00pm

During a morning radio appearance Thursday Gov. Rick Scott stood up for Enterprise Florida, which has been under fire from a Tallahassee watchdog group and some legislators since the group released a report entitled "Enterprise Florida: Econominc Development or Corporate Welfare?"

Scott, who is seeking additional money as part of his 2013 fiscal plan to help incentivize businesses to relocate and expand in Florida, endorsed the work of Enterprise Florida President Gray Swoope and the Orlando-based public-private agency that negotiates deals on behalf of the state to attract new business to Florida and also to help retain others that are considering relocation.

We are getting so many companies doing things here. It seems like almost every day we have an announcement, Scott said while appearing on WLFA in Tallahassee.

Enterprise Florida did 160 transactions last year and theyre very focused on getting a return for the taxpayers on every one of them.

Scotts comments came as legislators this week sought more transparency from Enterprise to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest and companies using inside connections.

Last week, Tallahassee-watchdog Integrity Florida releasedthe blistering report that accusedEnterprise Florida of potential conflicts of interest in the apparent practice of picking winners and losers through selective incentive deals.

The radio appearance was sandwiched between an announcement on Wednesday that Verizon Communications had accepted $6 million in tax incentives and up to $1.5 million for training new workers in exchange for plans to bring 750 jobs to Lake Mary and a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday in Palm Beach Gardens for the headquarters of TBC Corp.

TBC received $2.3 million in incentives from Florida and Palm Beach Gardens in exchange for 175 jobs by June 2014. The deal was approved last August. The governors office announced Thursday 61 of the positions have already been created.

Scott said that while Florida often doesnt have to compete to attract business because of its location and available workforce, when a company is in a competitive environment, being sought by other states and a nudge or two is required, any money Enterprise Florida works to dole out must have tight strings attached.

When you invest in something, if youre going to build plants or anything, your shareholders expect a return. The shareholders here are the taxpayers, Scott said.

Since our budget is tied to sales tax or property tax, what youre really looking at is if we give you $150,000 to open up a plant then we should get a multiple of that back.

If you cant, they should go someplace else, Scott added.

Scott said the review process at Enterprise must be followed, with the state able to get its money back when a company cant meet the terms of the deal.

He took a swipe at the $20 million in state incentives approved for the now defunct Digital Domain design studio to open in Port St. Lucie. Enterprise Florida turned down the request, which was later approved by the Legislature and former Gov. Charlie Crist.

Thats not the way it should be done, it should go through a very detailed process, Scott said.

Scott's comments are not unexpected as he has long been an advocate for Enterprise Florida, which is asking legislators to increase its available annual economic incentives from $111 million to $278 million.

During an appearance in the Capitol last month, Scott noted he would be heading an Enterprise Florida trade mission to the Paris Air Show in June.

Scott, who is also going to Chile in May as part of an Enterprise Florida trade mission, has played up international trade for Florida through similar Enterprise Florida missions in the past two years to Canada, Brazil, Israel, Spain, Great Britain and Colombia.

Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.

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