A business-friendly Florida aids local job-building efforts

It’s no secret that in the arena of business and industry recruitment, the competition is fierce, making the task of expanding the number and quality of jobs a challenging one for any economic development enterprise. That being said, it’s good to know at the local level that, here in Florida, our state leaders “get it” when it comes to business.

In the Governor’s Office, in the Cabinet-level offices and deep into the Legislature, the governing approach is pervasively pro-business and, more inclusively, pro-economic development.

In almost all of the major rankings of business-friendly states, Florida consistently is in the top 10, principally because of its favorable business tax structure; its government policies; its competitive costs in land, labor, and capital; its huge market; and its status as one of the nation’s few right-to-work states.

Last year, Florida got the attention of Chief Executive magazine, which ranked it as the nation’s second best state for business. The Sunshine State trailed only Texas in the ranking.

Talking with the magazine’s editors, Gov. Rick Scott said “it helps that we’ve cut taxes 25 times, by about $400 million.”

“When companies like Hertz, Amazon, Deutsche Bank, and Verizon add jobs here, it causes more people to look at us,” the governor said. “Business is comfortable that we’ll keep the tax base low and improve our workforce.”

It also helps that Florida leaders have made the state’s transportation system a priority for improvement. In particular, the state has invested more than $850 million in port infrastructure upgrades since 2011, a move that puts Florida in a better position to handle a higher volume of international products that will ship through a widened Panama Canal.

Just this month, Gov. Scott took the case for the state’s improved ports to California, where he and other members of a Sunshine State delegation met with West Coast cargo interests with hope they would move their operations to Florida.

Part of the message was this: Florida is uniquely positioned for international trade and commerce and the state has stepped up its efforts to compete for that commerce.

The trade trip to California represented a more aggressive approach to Florida’s business marketing efforts. The state has done a good job marketing Florida as a good and easy place to do business and telling how the Enterprise Florida program is designed to cut red tape and actually help businesses, but, as Texas has shown, there’s always room for improvement.

Sharing the Florida business story, with all of its positives, keeps the state top of mind with the out-of-state corporate site-selection and real estate professionals who routinely search for the best places to build, relocate or expand a business.

If government policies continue to be business friendly at the state level and if the state keeps improving its marketing message, economic development efforts at the regional, county and local levels can only benefit.

A great example of this how the state worked with Amazon, the Internet retail giant that wanted to establish operations in Florida for the first time. Not only did the Amazon executives decide to build in Florida, they chose Polk County for two of their warehouses — an order fulfillment center on the west side of Lakeland and a “sortation” center in the Davenport area.

Those are two positive Polk County stories that started with a positive business environment statewide. If Florida can first make the cut as a place for a company to do business, then the Lake Wales Economic Development Council and other local EDCs can compete internally for the privilege of hosting that company’s new office complex, manufacturing center, or industrial plant. In the end, all Floridians win.