Gov. Scott encourages support for Enterprise Florida, Visit Florida

Gov. Rick Scott made an appearance in Manatee County on Thursday to shore up support for Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida.

The stop was part of Scott’s “Fighting For Florida Jobs” roundtable tour. At PropLogix, 1651 Whitfield Ave., Scott encouraged a group of about 75 business and tourism industry leaders to voice their support for funding Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development engine, and Visit Florida, the state’s tourism promotion arm.

The governor is traveling the state and hosting roundtables after the GOP-controlled Florida House voted last week to eliminate Enterprise Florida and place stringent controls on Visit Florida.

Scott insists the programs are to credit for job growth and as a result, “Everyone’s better off in a good economy.”

“Generally, depending on the month, we’re leading the nation in job growth,” Scott said. “And then we’ve gone after tourists. You play to your strengths. We’re a tourism state.”

Every 76 tourists bring a new job to the state of Florida, Scott said. He also mentioned the creation of 1.3 million jobs since he took office in 2011.

Scott lauded Enterprise Florida for recruiting companies to move to the Sunshine State and help with the creation of those 1.3 million jobs.

“And it’s all across the state,” Scott said. “It’s not just in one part of the state.”

The Department of Economic Opportunity’s incentive data show differently, according to a Bradenton Herald analysis. In a searchable online portal, the Department of Economic Opportunity tracks the incentives awarded by Enterprise Florida, a public-private partnership tasked with bringing companies to Florida.

Most projects were awarded to companies in Hillsborough, Orange, Pinellas, Duval and Broward counties. Thirty of the state’s 67 counties had fewer than 10 projects and 20 of those 30 counties had fewer than five projects. The analysis includes more than 1,380 projects, including those that are active, terminated, complete, inactive or expired.

Hendry, Sumter and Citrus counties have the highest unemployment rates in Florida, according to numbers released this week by the Department of Economic Opportunity. One company in Citrus, one in Sumter and two in Hendry received incentives from Enterprise Florida.

Thirty-three companies in Manatee and 26 in Sarasota have received help from Enterprise Florida. Manatee-Sarasota residential developers Carlos Beruff, founder of Medallion Home, and Pat Neal, president and CEO of Neal Communities, spoke of the ripple effect tourism and job creation have on their businesses.

“Eighty percent of the houses we sell started with someone who came here on vacation,” Beruff said. “A lot of the people who come here and visit and make a vacation end up making this their retirement home.”

“I build homes in this town,” Neal said. “To the tourism, we sell 57 percent of our homes to those who have an out-of-state address at the time of their first purchase.”

For residents, selling homes and creating jobs isn’t what comes to mind when they hear the word “tourism.” Residents of one of Manatee County’s most popular tourist destinations, Anna Maria Island, constantly battle the balance of promoting tourism while maintaining the quality of life they enjoy. Scott said that quality of life wouldn’t exist without Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida.

“We all love our pristine environment,” Scott said. “How do you pay for that? Because you have revenues. All the things we really care about only happen because we have a robust economy. If you’re going to do these things, you’re going to continue to grow your economy. The way to grow your economy is to have good paying jobs; that’s what Enterprise Florida does and make sure we continue to recruit so we get more tourists to come here because those are 1.4 million jobs.”

Janelle O’Dea: 941-745-7095, @jayohday