Two Bradenton Republican legislators are advancing a simple proposal that begs the question: Why isn't this already on the books?
Sen. Bill Galvano and Rep. Jim Boyd are sponsoring legislation that gives manufacturers the ability to create multifaceted master plans for future site growth, gain local approval and then be set for years. Companies would not have to return to government agencies to win approvals for every step in the master plan.
That lends certainty to a business. The worry, expense and time that separate approvals take would disappear. The political whims of future city councils, county commissions and state agencies would no longer matter.
A manufacturer's site development blueprint could sit idle but remain applicable over the plan's time frame. And a company could modify the expansion plan without official approvals, with exceptions for building codes and public safety issues.
The "Manufacturing Competitiveness Act" also calls for state agencies to coordinate the permitting process in local jurisdictions that have adopted manufacturing enterprise program -- a voluntary county-level program that commissions must approve via ordinance. And instead of the current lengthy time span in gaining the necessary permits -- up to 18 months -- the bill requires state agencies to act quickly -- within 90 days.
Under the measure, Florida's Department of Economic Opportunity is the lead agency responsible for establishing and coordinating the manufacturing development program.
This business-friendly legislation streamlines the entire process to make Florida more competitive with other states in attracting new manufacturers and retaining existing ones.
Fittingly, the catalyst behind this common-sense measure is Tropicana, according to Galvano and Boyd.
In September of last year, the giant Bradenton juice producer filed a new master site plan with Manatee County with the intention of streamlining the redevelopment of its massive 186-acre campus -- even though the company had no immediate expansion plan. At that time, Tropicana stated the company was seeking pre-approval of future growth to gain a competitive edge in the industry. The company saw the need for an expedited expansion process after getting bogged down in permitting delays in the development of its new $4 million bottling plant in 2011.
In approving the new master site plan last month, the county noted it "will give Tropicana a perch from which the company can more quickly grasp manufacturing opportunities." Furthermore, the plan shaves seven weeks off the regulatory review time for a major construction project.
The twin bills by Galvano and Boyd would provide similar considerations statewide, though with stronger mandates. Corporations must have the ability for a rapid response to the swift changes in evolving marketplace.
As Boyd told Herald reporter Stephen Frater, "It's an important piece of my legislative agenda since we have lost our competitive edge nationally, and the bill will create a more favorable manufacturing environment while protecting natural resources and quality of life."
The legislation fits perfectly with Gov. Rick Scott's priorities -- job creation and government streamlining. As such, we expect legislative approval and the governor's blessing. And we anticipate the swift adoption of a manufacturing enterprise program by the business-oriented Manatee County Commission.
Kudos to Bill Galvano and Jim Boyd for crafting this inspired economic development measure.