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Gov.-elect Scott in Bradenton: ‘It’s jobs, jobs, jobs’

BRADENTON — Gov.-elect Rick Scott toured Tropicana Products Inc. on Thursday, saying afterward that everybody knows “what we need in this state now is jobs. It’s jobs, jobs, jobs.”

As trucks loaded with oranges roared past into the juice giant’s east Bradenton processing plant, the newly-elected Republican emphasized that “manufacturing’s very important to our state.”

Tropicana straddles the agriculture and manufacturing sectors of the state’s economy, he said.

“I’m going to do everything I can as governor to make sure this is the No. 1 place for companies like Tropicana to do business, so we can continue to grow our state,” Scott said.

The governor-elect arrived early for an 8 a.m. tour of the plant, which employs 1,300 and produces an array of fruit juices and related products. Bradenton was among 10 cities Scott planned to visit this week for a close-up look at major job producers.

Michael W. Haycock, vice president of Tropicana operations, welcomed him, saying, “We talked about the importance of innovation to the state and bringing capital into the state, and some of the things that the governor can help us with in terms of continuing to make those innovations and keeping jobs in the state of Florida.”

At this time of year, the plant processes 40 million oranges a day, Haycock said.

Among the topics he discussed with Scott were citrus greening — a bacterial plant disease — and a new research effort designed to fight it; and the importance of education and training, he said.

During the tour, Haycock focused on how manufacturing provides an opportunity to create jobs, according to a summary provided by Steven J. Lezman, director of government affairs for Tropicana’s parent company, PepsiCo.

While manufacturers produced 11.8 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product last year, in Florida the percentage was only 4.8 percent in 2008, it said.

That compared to other states, with Alabama at 17.2 percent; Georgia, 10.9; Mississippi, 15; North Carolina, 19.5; South Carolina, 16.1, and Texas, 13, the summary said.

Florida manufacturers last year employed 323,000 people, with average annual compensation at $66,315, above that of the rest of the workforce, at $53,695, it said.

Scott said Florida must compete with 49 other states, as well as a variety of other countries.

“So we’re competing with all these other places for businesspeople to move their capital, move their plants, move their operations, so we’ve got to make sure our taxes are fair, our regulations are fair, and on top of that, just our attitude,” he said.

Whatever the issue, Florida must maintain a “can-do attitude,” said Scott, who takes office Jan. 4.