2018 Legislative Session’s Lessons for Economic Development

March 26, 2018

Florida’s economic development and tourism organizations would have been negatively impacted had House Bill 3 and its companion, Senate Bill 1714, both passed. The former sailed through the House, the latter did not pass in the Senate.

These bills, which sought to impose onerous requirements and regulations on local economic development and tourism organizations in the name of accountability, would have greatly affected our ability to carry out our mission and discouraged private sector involvement in the EDC. The philosophy underpinning HB3 and SB1714 is that the state government should be able to take power away from local governments, who currently have the authority to determine how best to conduct such activities for their communities.

Together with the Florida Economic Development Council and our peer economic development organizations around the state, we worked hard this session to answer legislators’ questions, reiterate that EDOs do not determine who gets financial incentives or distribute them, and that recruiting companies is just a small fraction of the work we do. My deepest thanks to all of our Investors who answered my calls to contact our legislative delegation and urge them to oppose HB 3 and SB 1714. Your actions made a difference.

We discovered that there were a lot of misconceptions about what economic development is and how it works in this state. The big takeaway was that we have a lot of educating to do. And we’re not going to waste any time getting started.

This May, the Tampa Hillsborough EDC will host its first Economic Development Boot Camp for our local legislative delegation. Our goal is to familiarize our elected officials with the work that we do and how it creates prosperity throughout the Tampa Bay region. We’ll have them hear from companies that have worked with the EDC to help them relocate or expand here, walk them through the process of how incentives are awarded, and inform them about the initiatives we’ve created to ensure that this market stays competitive.

But we won’t stop there. We’ll be publishing a series of articles, case studies, and guest columns, and I will be speaking locally and nationally in my current role as Chair of the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) on the value of economic development.

We are looking forward to engaging with our legislative delegation on these matters and others of importance to our economic future.  We’re all working toward the same goal of building greater prosperity for Floridians, and I’m confident that we can get on the same page.

Craig J. Richard, CEcD, FM