Fla. Gov. Scott urges Manatee, Sarasota to market area better

Florida Gov. Rick Scott told about 40 area leaders this morning the state has made solid economic progress since his election, but Manatee and Sarasota must sell themselves harder for the economy to come full circle.

Scott led a business roundtable discussion with local government officials, business owners and chamber executives today at the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce facility on Fruitville Road in downtown Sarasota.

Scott discussed his jobs platform, changes in the unemployment law and other legislation on his radar crafted to boost commerce.

The key to continuing the economic growth will be holding taxes low, cutting regulation and increasing the accessibility of education for youth, he contended.

"I ran because I think the state and country were headed in the wrong direction," he said. "We were losing jobs ... There's no logical reason we can't be the No. 1 state for jobs."

Florida, he said, needs to continue concentration in tourism and agriculture, two sectors largely considered Florida's best.

"The only thing we can do is mess that up," the governor said.

The key will be making it easier for light manufacturing, the boating industry and the medical research segment to expand and relocate here.

To accomplish that, the state needs to keep its focus on low taxes, education and deflated regulations, Scott said.

A bill he plans to sign today will erase hundreds of the 1,100 regulations now on the state's books.

"Part of it is we have to tell our story," he said. "We don't brag enough. I lived in Texas for a short time and there, you were bragging about the place after two days. We have all these good things going on in our state. We need to tell people why they should be here."

Local business leaders pleaded with Scott to sign the $5 million state allocation for the Benderson rowing facility off University, an item he vetoed last year.

Airport CEO and President Rick Piccolo said the project is essential to complete the region's sports tourism draw, adding to IMG Academies and the Premier Sports Complex in Lakewood Ranch.

They also touted the need for general diversification in the economy. Since the recession hit, the area lost half of its 23,000 construction jobs, records show.

"Our region has been struggling," said Pat Neal, owner of Neal Communities, a prominent local homebuilder. "People come here and buy hips, houses and Applebee's. Our economy is largely service driven. It's important for us to diversify that and create more high-wage employment."