Florida Secretary of Commerce Bill Johnson Rallies Leaders, Praises EDC Success

June 17, 2015

Having spent just over four months at the helm of Enterprise Florida, Florida Secretary of Commerce Bill Johnson has spent many days on the road, visiting the cities and metro areas of Florida that are working hard to make Florida a prime location for top corporations.
On May 26, the Tampa Hillsborough EDC had the honor of showing the new President and CEO of Enterprise Florida around Hillsborough County. We kicked off our morning with a helicopter tour of the area, where Johnson got a bird’s eye view of Tampa and Hillsborough County. Starting off at Peter O’Knight Airport, Johnson was able to see Bayshore Boulevard and MacDill Air Force Base before heading to the South Shore area, I-75, and Plant City. The tour then went north, hovering over New Tampa, the University of South Florida district, Busch Gardens, and Temple Terrace, before heading back south to Westshore, the downtown district, and Port Tampa Bay.
After the whirlwind tour of Hillsborough County, Johnson visited the facilities at CAMLS to learn about the innovation and education that takes place there.
Johnson also addressed community and business leaders at the EDC’s Joint Leadership Luncheon that day, hosted by Port Tampa Bay in Terminal 6.
What tops the list of the Enterprise Florida chief’s biggest issues to tackle in his first year? Securing financial incentives.
Johnson noted that some state legislators see the financial incentives used to attract businesses to Florida as “corporate welfare.” He sees them as a vital part of the process in bringing businesses, jobs, and capital investment to the state.
He also wants to promote Florida as the nation’s top business destination. States such as Texas, New York, and New Jersey have double digit million-dollar marketing budgets while Enterprise Florida is asking for $5 million to market our state.
“Florida offers an attractive, competitive and in many ways, an unmatched business climate,” he told the nearly 100 attendees at the luncheon. “That is what we need to sell.”
He also pointed to Florida’s favorable tax system and exceptional regional assets such as Port Tampa Bay, the state’s largest port, and Tampa International Airport, ranked #2 in North America for customer satisfaction, that give us distinct advantages over other destinations competing for corporate expansions and relocations.
After the powerful speech, Dr. Ron Vaughn, University of Tampa President and Chair of the EDC, summed up what many in the room were thinking: “Wow. We’ve got the right guy with Bill.”
Johnson’s trip to Tampa and Hillsborough County also included meetings with Jeff Vinik of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Lee Evans and his team at Bristol-Myers Squibb, as well as a roundtable discussion with our government partners from Hillsborough County and the cities of Tampa, Plant City, and Temple Terrace.
The success of this visit and luncheon would not have been possible without the support of our generous Investors. Thank you to Dave Kemper and Stantec, who provided us with incredible aerial maps that were used during the helicopter tour; the Port Tampa Bay team, who hosted and sponsored the luncheon; and Dr. Vaughn and the University of Tampa, who sponsored the intimate dinner held later that evening at Mise en Place.