Invest in the Florida Innovation Fund

"I will invest in the state Innovation Fund that brought Scripps and Burnham research labs to Florida, developing high-tech clusters with high-paying jobs."


Gov. Scott gets rid of line item fund but boosts economic development dollars

Gov. Rick Scott's mantra can be boiled down to this: jobs, jobs, jobs.

Within his 7-7-7 plan -- bringing 700,000 jobs to Florida within seven years -- on his campaign website, Scott promised:

"I will invest in the state Innovation Fund that brought Scripps and Burnham research labs to Florida, developing high-tech clusters with high-paying jobs."

Burnham refers to the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute and its permanent campus in the Orlando area, opened in 2009. Both Scripps Florida in Palm Beach County and Burnham have brought the sort of biomedical and science jobs that any area of Florida would covet. But to be precise, Florida didn't use the Innovation Incentive Fund to lure Scripps here. A division of the California-based non-profit Scripps Research Institute, Scripps Florida was announced in 2003 before the fund existed and other piles of state and county money sealed that deal.

We pulled some background on the Florida Innovation Incentive Fund from an April 29, 2008, article in the Palm Beach Post which described it as "the state's deep well of cash for luring life-science institutes to Florida." It said the fund is "a matching grant program in which cities and counties contributed the rest of the money."

We also found background on the fund in this Florida Senate report from October 2008.

Scott released his budget proposal on Feb. 7, 2011. On his budget website, we found that the innovation incentive fund -- and other economic development programs such as brownfield redevelopment projects, quick action closing fund and Florida small business development center network -- were all budgeted for zero dollars in 2011-12.

But we also noticed that Scott proposed an overall increase of about $350 million over two years in economic development programs: rising from about $216.9 million in 2010-11 to $366.6 million in 2011-12 and $566.5 million in 2012-13.

In Scott's budget bill, he wants all funds appropriated to the Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development within the Economic Development Tools appropriation category to go toward funding several programs, including the Innovation Incentive Fund.

"The amount of funds allocated to each of the individual programs funded in the Economic Development Tools appropriation category shall be determined by the director of the Office of Tourism, Trade, and Economic Development," the bill states.

We spoke to Stuart Doyle, spokesperson for Enterprise Florida, a partnership between businesses and government and chaired by Scott that describes itself on its website as the "principal economic development organization for the state of Florida."

"It's not only the Innovation Incentive Fund; there are other incentive funds zeroed out as budget line items for next year," Doyle wrote to us in an e-mail. "What you don't see are line item amounts for specific incentive programs, which would enable the pool of funds designated for economic development to be used less restrictively to recruit businesses and for business retention. This approach would give the state more flexibility in attracting businesses and increasing jobs without the risk of and concern over exhausting funds in a particular incentive program."

Scott promised to invest in the innovation fund. What he has proposed is eliminating the fund as a line item while consolidating and ultimately expanding economic development dollars to give the state more flexibility to attract business. His idea is just a proposal at this point, awaiting legislative action. For now, we rate it In The Works.


Gov. Rick Scott, budget proposal, Feb. 7. 2011

Rick Scott for Governor, campaign website, 2010

Gov. Rick Scott, Budget Conforming Bill, 2011

Palm Beach Post, "State incentive fund to lure big biotech to dry up," April 29, 2008

Florida Senate interim report, "Review of OTTED's oversight of the Florida Innovation Incentive Grant Program," October 2008

Enterprise Florida, website, Accessed Feb. 11, 2011

Sanford-Burhnam Medical Research Institute, website, Accessed Feb. 11, 2011

Scripps, website, Accessed Feb. 11, 2011

Interview, Enterprise Florida spokesman Stuart Doyle, Feb. 11, 2011

Interview, Vice President for Scientific Operations and professor of chemistry at Scripps Florida Harry W. Orf, Feb. 11-14, 2011

Interview, Scripps director of communications Mika Ono, Feb. 11-14, 2011