Becky Bowers
By Becky Bowers December 2, 2011

Scott signs into law Department of Economic Opportunity

One way Gov. Rick Scott planned to accomplish his campaign vision of seven steps to 700,000 jobs was "eliminating overlapping economic development agencies."

The plan: Have just one group assist local economic development agencies and serve as a statewide recruitment agency.

Over the years, in addition to Enterprise Florida, a strong public-private partnership born in the mid '90s, smaller agencies encouraged business growth — one for marketing tourism, another for developing minority businesses, one for strengthening space industry businesses, another for promoting sports. Workforce Florida helped strengthen the labor system, "while supporting economic development priorities." The Agency for Workforce Innovation oversaw the state's employment data and unemployment programs.

The Governor's Office had its own Office of Tourism, Transportation and Economic Development.

Enterprise Florida might work to recruit a company, then hand the project off to that office for decisions about incentives.

Scott instead pitched a reborn Department of Commerce.

Step 4 in his campaign plan, to focus on job growth and retention, said, "In Tallahassee, we will eliminate overlapping economic development agencies and have one group that will assist local economic development agencies and serve as our statewide recruitment agency."

How did he do?

In June, he approved a law creating the Department of Economic Opportunity.

So far, so good.

But lawmakers and some business leaders didn't fully embrace Scott's uber-agency, with a single leader to oversee both that department and Enterprise Florida.

Scott brought in Gray Swoope from Mississippi to lead Enterprise Florida and the new Department of Economic Opportunity. But the Senate wanted a separate leader for the new department. Doug Darling, who had worked in the Environmental Protection Department, was named director. Swoope kept the title of commerce secretary, but without a department of commerce.

Meanwhile, under the new lawSpace Florida and Workforce Florida remain independent. Visit Florida works under contract with Enterprise Florida. 

Did Scott "eliminate" any overlapping agencies? 

The Office of Tourism, Transportation and Economic Development disappeared. The Black Business Investment Board and Florida Sports Foundation are new divisions of Enterprise Florida, though the sports foundation kept its old offices. The Agency for Workforce Innovation and Department of Community Affairs no longer exist, with many of their functions taken over by the Department of Economic Opportunity. The Ready to Work program that was part of the Department of Education is now part of the new department.

Swoope works out of Enterprise Florida's Tallahassee office — and also has an office two doors down from the governor. 

Historically, the state's economic development has been "disjointed, a very disjointed effort," Swoope said. "Now, for the first time in Florida's history, we're working together."

Each group knows its role and works on separate pieces of the process — product development, business development and service after the sale — and businesses know where to go, he said.

Scott said he would "eliminating overlapping economic development agencies" with "one group" that would assist local economic development agencies and serve as a statewide recruitment agency. A law he signed this summer certainly gets closer to this goal, eliminating some agencies and encouraging better cooperation between others. But there's still more than one group, however well they might function together. We rate Scott's promise a Compromise.

Aaron Sharockman
By Aaron Sharockman January 28, 2011

Scott proposes new state Department of Commerce

In his quest to create 700,000 private-sector jobs, Gov. Rick Scott promised to create a single economic development clearinghouse that would work tirelessly on his top priority.

"We will eliminate overlapping economic development agencies and have one group that will assist local economic development agencies and serve as our statewide recruiting agency," Scott said as part of his plan to create 700,000 jobs in seven years.

At a meeting of Enterprise Florida -- the public-private economic development arm of the state -- Scott suggested creating a state Department of Commerce to work more closely with the governor on job creation.

"We're looking at how we make government work better," Scott said on Jan. 27, 2011.  "One thing I'm going to do -- I'm going to work with the Legislature to do this -- I want to streamline how we do economic development.

"What I want to do is set up a Department of Commerce. I'm going to have the secretary of that office in my office, two doors from my office. And I want them to be the ones to work with Enterprise Florida, they'll work with OTTED (Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development) and work with the Agency for Workforce Innovation."

In an accompanying press release, Scott said the new commerce department would "consolidate all economic development, workforce training and community development functions currently spread across the government into a single department."

"To grow Florida jobs, we will consolidate our state's economic development programs under one roof and make our efforts more efficient," Scott said in the press release.

Scott's original promise was to eliminate overlapping economic development agencies and to merge those operations into one unit. While he says he is planning to create a commerce department to function as the state's economic development arm -- and he has said he will fold other economic development programs into the new department -- we still need to see how the merger/consolidation plays out.

So for now, we'll rate this promise In the Works.

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