BRADENTON -- Three weeks ago, Governor Rick Scott joined county officials at Port Manatee for a groundbreaking ceremony. He praised state/private partnerships as being the economic engine that would drive the state of Florida into a promising future. This week he returns, joining some of the businesses he referenced, to attend the "Enterprise Florida" board meeting. However, a closer look reaveals that there may be trouble in this economic paradise.
This time, the Governor will be on the other side of the Skyway Bridge, and he will be meeting with the members of Enterprise Florida at the Don Cesar in St. Pete Beach on Thursday, September 13. Some of the members are: Florida Blue, Wells Fargo and TD Bank. They will reportedly be confronted by disclosures of conflict of interests and other reports that are not as flattering as the Governor would like.
The Palm Beach Post reported what could be the largest jobs incentive failure in state history, Digital Domain Media Group, which closed its Port St. Lucie animation studio, reportedly at a cost of $20 million to the state.
At stake, is a total of $130 million: $51 million owed to private investors and government incentives that included a $40 million dollar bond at the city of Port St. Lucie's expense, a $2 million investment from the city of West Palm Beach, and the promise of hundreds of high-paying jobs.
A similar deal happened last year in Sarasota when Sanborn Studios started falling through the cracks. Hundreds of thousands of county incentive dollars and millions of dollars in transferable tax credits are still in question. The deal was to create 117 jobs at an average of $70,000 a year.
Savtira Corp. in Hillsborough was awarded $2.65 million with a promise to create 265 jobs with an average pay of $88,000. The company filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April. It lost its chance to participate in the Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund program for failing to disclose a prior SEC investigation and was the subject of a probe by the U.S. Department of Labor for not paying workers.
On April 25, 2012, Integrity Florida, released the report -- Corruption Risk Report: Enterprise Florida. It examines Enterprise Florida as the state's economic development organization, and its commitment to public access to information, accountability, performance metrics and transparency. Integrity Florida may be Florida's most reliable source to what the bottom line is, and what that means to the rest of us. In a climate full of cheerleaders, of whose interest it's in to distort our economic reality, it is essential that we have alternative organizations to get accurate reporting.
It will be interesting to find out what else will be on Enterprise Florida's table, in terms of incentive dollars for businesses that promise to create more jobs, how far Governor Rick Scott will go to fulfill his campaign promise of 700,000 new ones, and whether or not the incentive math adds up for Florida taxpayers.
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