Northwest Florida is Poised for Growth
Gray Swoope, is Florida’s Secretary of Commerce and president and CEO of Enterprise Florida Inc.
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This is an exciting time for Florida and particularly for Northwest Florida. As the U.S. economy shows signs of a cautious recovery, our state leads the nation in job creation, having achieved the greatest drop in unemployment among all states since the national downturn. It has decreased from nearly 12 percent to 8 percent since Gov. Rick Scott took office. In November 2012 alone, Florida gained 12,100 jobs, which is placing thousands of individuals and families back on track for economic security. In October, the state’s 24 Regional Workforce Boards reported a record of more than 50,423 Floridians placed into jobs.
Even more, people once again are moving to Florida. Net immigration for 2012 is up to an estimated 134,500, almost doubling 2011’s 68,000 total. Florida’s housing starts also increased by more than 29 percent from September 2011 to September 2012. And median home prices rose by 7.4 percent during that period.
Many of these improvement indicators resulted from three distinct actions centered on the state’s economic development: conscious decisions and strategies directed toward job creation, enhancing the state’s competitive landscape and improving Florida’s business climate.
Before taking office, Gov. Scott interviewed a group of leading site selection consultants — professionals who are vital to bringing competitive projects to the state — to learn their opinions about Florida’s competitiveness. Their feedback was significant concerning various factors that prompted the governor and the Legislature to improve economic development processes and practices. One notable outcome was legislation that established the Department of Economic Opportunity.
Look at what has happened in the last two years. We are different. We are stronger. State agency heads are communicating and working together as never before to create opportunities and solve problems.
Successful economic development requires this type of seamless coordination across all entities involved, not just at the state level. Northwest Florida is fortunate to have outstanding, high-performing economic development organizations and elected officials who understand their importance to the region’s growth, prosperity and vibrancy. Enterprise Florida works hand-in-hand with its economic development partner Florida’s Great Northwest, which markets the 16-county region as a globally competitive location for business and recruits jobs and investment here. In each of those counties, we work with our designated partner economic development office to generate interest in the region from corporate decision-makers and present the most compelling proposition possible for why businesses should select Northwest Florida for expansion and investment.