2021 Legislative Session Offers New Opportunities for Economic Recovery Collaboration

January 26, 2021

The loss of Florida’s key financial incentive, the Qualified Target Industry (QTI) tax refund, and the impact of COVID-19 dealt a one-two punch to Florida economic developers’ efforts in 2020. Our state saw the loss of billions of dollars in capital investment, headquarter operations and thousands of high paying jobs as a result. But it’s a new year, and a new legislative session is upon us. That’s why the Tampa Bay EDC and our local government partners teamed up earlier this month to host a “Boot Camp” for our elected officials. If we’re going to compete – and win – in the post-COVID economy, we’ve got to work together to get this recovery right.

On January 7, we convened over 40 Hillsborough County legislators, county commissioners, Tampa city council members and their aides for what turned out to be a very collegial virtual event. It was wonderful to see the faces of our newly elected legislators and commissioners, in addition to the familiar ones, as we went through our introductions. All of us are hopeful for a better year ahead and looking forward to collaborating. EDC General Counsel Ron Christaldi of Shumaker, Lindsey Kimball of Hillsborough County Economic Development, Rob Rosner of the City of Tampa, and I presented an overview of the current state of economic development in Florida. We  discussed job creation tools for competitiveness and shared success factors for helping people find new employment, generate more inclusive prosperity, and diversify our economy. We were joined by John Boyd, Jr. of The Boyd Company, who shared his perspective as a site selector on what the loss of incentives has done to Florida’s competitiveness with other states. Jeff Wood, Chief Financial Officer of Advanced Airfoil Components, one of the EDC’s successful recruitment projects, helped our elected officials understand how companies like his rely on economic developers to complete their relocation and expansion projects.

I am happy to report that the program was well-received, and believe it went a long way toward helping us strengthen our relationships with our legislative delegation and local government officials. We’re grateful to all of them for their time and willingness to collaborate as we navigate this crisis together.

Last week, I was honored to reprise my portion of the boot camp for members of the entire Florida Legislative delegation. Over 100 legislators, aides and economic developers from across Florida participated. The Florida Economic Development Council used our template to create a statewide version of the boot camp, and included perspectives from our peer economic developers, projects in rural communities, and closing remarks from our Secretary of Commerce and CEO of Enterprise Florida, Jamal Sowell. It was a privilege for me to present with Senator Danny Burgess of Zephyrhills, who is also serving as the Chair of the Senate Select Committee for Pandemic Preparedness and Response. John Boyd graciously shared his presentation from our boot camp and underscored how much business we are losing without QTI. Secretary Sowell closed the program with an appeal for the restoration of QTI. Time will tell if our efforts to regain that key incentive will be successful. But for now we are pleased that economic developers and legislators have had some productive initial conversations about post-pandemic recovery strategies.

If you’d like to view a recording of the statewide boot camp presentation, click here.  The Tampa Bay Business Journal’s coverage of the event can be read here.