Building bridges with state representatives for greater prosperity

August 22, 2018

Earlier this month, the EDC hosted its inaugural Economic Development Boot Camp for members of our legislative delegation and their aides. The program, attended by Sen. Darryl Rouson, Rep. Chris Sprowls, Rep. Wengay Newton, and Rep. Jackie Toledo, provided the officials with a deep dive into how economic development works in Hillsborough County; how incentives are used, awarded, and distributed; and how the EDC assists companies that have launched and grown here or been recruited to our community.

Rhea Law, Chair of the Florida offices of Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney and the EDC’s General Counsel, and I kicked off the program. We were joined by our partners Lindsey Kimball, Director of Economic Development at Hillsborough County, and Bob McDonaugh, Administrator of Economic Opportunity at the City of Tampa, who explained the incentives process in detail and answered questions about it.

This discussion is incredibly important, since there is a great deal of misinformation being spread about the state’s financial incentives programs and talking points circulating with false claims that economic development organizations like ours dispense ‘corporate welfare’ and pick ‘winners and losers.’

Incentives programs like the Qualified Target Industry (QTI) tax rebate are statutory and have been around for at least four decades. These incentives are performance-based, meaning that they are paid out only after the company creates the high wage jobs it promised.

No jobs = no rebate, and therefore no risk to the taxpayer.

The State of Florida is solely responsible for choosing to award companies that meet the criteria for these incentives, and for disbursing the funds the state agreed to pay. Local governments usually agree to pay 20 percent of the total incentive package that the state has granted.

Our elected leaders also had an opportunity to hear from executives from Amgen and ReliaQuest about why they chose to relocate to or expand in our market. Michael Frankel, Amgen’s Executive Director and Head of Global Business Solutions and Colin O’Connor, ReliaQuest’s Chief Operating Officer, shared details about their selection process and how other states competed for their projects.

Our goal with the Boot Camp was to foster a greater understanding and stronger relationship with our representatives before they head off to the 2019 Legislative Session. Following the boot camp, we introduced the four elected leaders to our Investors at a luncheon, and then invited them to share their priorities for the coming year. Our incoming Chair, Dr. Judy Genshaft, President of the USF System, presided over the lunch and Rhea moderated the panel. Approximately 50 of our Investors and partners were in attendance, and several encouraged me to do more of these events to help us strengthen our relationships with these leaders.

We are extremely thankful to Senator Rouson and Representatives Sprowls, Toledo, and Newton for giving us their time and sharing their perspectives. Regardless of party or ideology, we are all united by a desire to help everyone in our community prosper. I’m confident that we can find common ground and work together productively to achieve that mutual goal.

Craig J. Richard, CEcD, FM