CEO discusses keys to Florida’s success

SARASOTA — To set Florida’s business sector up for success, communities need to work together to make the state more attractive to young business people, says Mark Wilson, president and chief executive officer of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Also, attracting businesses to Florida means leaders must understand future workforce demands. Wilson spoke to about 120 people at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee about the urgency to start planning now for 2030 by looking at the demands the state will have to meet in the workforce and business growth.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce has been focusing on the state’s needs for 2030 since an additional 10 million residents are projected to move here by then.

“We need to plan for the next 10 million, better than we planned for the last 10 million,” Wilson said.

Wilson’s lecture, titled Leadership in Turbulent Times, focused on a new strategy the Florida Chamber of Commerce has developed to help steer communities toward the demands in employment and business growth.

The strategy is centered around six pillars that Wilson said Florida needs to measure success by in order to create more high-wage jobs, build more vibrant communities and compete globally.

The pillars are categories of talent, innovation, infrastructure, business climate, governance and quality of life.

“Florida has to win in these categories,” Wilson said.

One of the most important categories, Wilson said, is talent because it is a way of measuring success and preparing for the future workforce that will be in demand by 2030.

If the education system starts preparing students now for the jobs that will be in demand more than 20 years from now it will set Florida up for better growth.

“The secret to leadership in your community is to look far enough out to know what the markets are,” Wilson said. “Then start making changes now.”

In addition, Wilson said much responsibility will rely on government and communities to improve quality of life.

The Florida Chamber president said college graduates are no longer focused on the companies they will work for, rather they are focused on the city they will live in.

“It’s, I’m going to Denver or Austin because those are cool places to live,” Wilson said. “Place really matters today. The next generation is going where it’s a great place to live.”

Wilson said Florida has an opportunity to capitalize on employee and business recruitment if it starts aggressively promoting the state’s quality of life.

“There aren’t much places on the planet that are nicer to live in than Florida,” Wilson said. “You are going to lose that if you take it for granted.”