Archive for the ‘Florida’ Category

Another Scandal at Florida’s Privatized Development Agency

February 28, 2014
Click to watch the CBS12 investigation

Click to watch the CBS12 investigation

For the followers of Enterprise Florida (EFI), another scandal at the organization should not come as a surprise. Television station CBS12 in Palm Beach discovered this week that EFI, the privatized “public-private partnership” responsible for recruiting companies to the state, has spent thousands of dollars on entertaining site selection consultants.

About $21,000 was spent at Yankee Stadium in New York, another $7,100 at the Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Tex., and $4,400 at Turner Field in Atlanta, Ga. More than half a million more was billed to EFI credit cards for food, hotels and other entertainment. Enterprise Florida justified the lavish entertainment bills by saying it “must build and maintain strong relationships with site selection professionals across the country.” It is important to remember, however, that the majority of EFI’s funding comes from the public coffers, so, ultimately, the Florida taxpayers are the ones paying for those lavish expenses.

Just a few months ago, another scandal revealed that few of the jobs announced by EFI have yet materialized and several of the announced deals actually collapsed.

Integrity Florida, a nonpartisan watch-dog group, sent a letter to Governor Rick Scott calling on him to investigate the EFI spending. We join the Integrity Florida call!

Florida’s Disappointing Job Creation Record

December 10, 2013


Florida Gov. Rick Scott received negative press in the last few days for his job creation record. The Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald  published a three-part series called “Jobs in Florida: The Rick Scott Record,” in which the newspapers document that only a small fraction of positions that subsidy recipients promised to create have actually materialized, and a significant portion of the deals have collapsed entirely. Accompanying the series is an interactive database showing the performance of 340 subsidy deals.

The series shows that the state pledged $266 million in public money for 45,258 jobs, often subsidizing low-wage industries like call centers and retail (Wal-Mart and its Sam’s Club unit are among the recipients). Ninety-six percent of those jobs have yet to materialize, with 46 deals creating none.

The state’s broader job picture has also been discouraging. The series points out that between January 2011 and November 2013 Florida lost 49,163 jobs at companies bigger than 100 employees, a fact never mentioned by the Scott administration.

We applaud the Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald reporters for their impressive work (See our previous blog on similar investigations in North Carolina and Washington, DC).

Sunshine State Accidentally Releases Sunshine

June 28, 2012

Florida has been turning out the lights on economic development, and now it is having trouble managing the release of less information.

Last week, Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) accidentally released information on subsidy deals currently being negotiated by the state. Instead of sending a blank template for an upcoming subsidy disclosure website, DEO sent a database to Integrity Florida, a watchdog group that in turn shared it with journalists. Upon learning of its mistake, DEO demanded everyone destroy their copies claiming that publication of the list would harm the state’s recruitment efforts.

The gaffe comes as the Sunshine state has been growing opaque on jobs. Florida law prevents releasing information on subsidized companies for the first two years after deals are agreed to, and deals in negotiation are granted confidentiality. Enterprise Florida, the state’s public-private development arm, discloses only partial information on subsidy recipients in its annual reports.

That’s a retreat from 2007, when the Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development started posting information on deals in several programs. However, after Gov. Rick Scott took office in 2011, the disclosure website disappeared (as did Florida’s Recovery Act website). More than a year ago, Good Jobs First asked about the lost information and DEO told us the data were merely being moved to a new website under the new Department of Economic Opportunity. But the data has yet to resurface.

The data leak last week shows that since January 2011, Florida committed $155 million to 270 subsidy deals that promised to create more than 32,000 jobs.

According to a blog by Aaron Deslatte from Orlando Sentinel, the state “flipped out” and Gov. Scott himself called the Sentinel’s editor trying to quash the story, but to no avail.

We predict the leak will not harm Florida’s economy, because economic development disclosure never has hurt any state’s business climate. We hope the episode will remind Floridians that its pioneering Open Records history has served it well.