Report: Economic incentives are working to boost Tampa Bay businesses

November 23, 2015

Margie Manning | Tampa Bay Business Journal
More than one-third of the businesses that received state-administered grants to train new and existing workers say their sales went up because of the grants.
Nearly all the companies say the grants had a positive impact, according to a report from the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability, which supports the Florida Legislature by providing data, research and analysis.
Businesses in Hillsborough County were among the largest recipients of the two grant programs, the Quick Response Training and Incumbent Worker Training programs, during fiscal years 2011-2014, the time period included in the OPPAGA review. QRT provides new or expanding businesses in target industry state grant funding for customized-skills-based training. IWT, which is federally funded, provides grants for continuing education and training of incumbent employees, or those already employed, at existing Florida businesses.
CareerSource Florida, the business-led statewide workforce investment board, administers the programs.
During the three-year review period, Hillsborough County companies received 10 QRT grants totaling $1.3 million to train 1,592 employees. Hillsborough business also received 102 IWT grants totaling $1.8 million to train 4,590 employees during the same time period. That was the largest payment of IWT funds for any county in the state, the report said.
Among other local recipients:
– Pinellas County businesses received four QRT grants totaling $401,592 for 852 employees and 65 IWT grants totaling $941,857 to train 1,515 employees.
– Polk County businesses received eight QRT grants totaling $565,840 for 530 employees and 12 IWT grants totaling $201,552 for 523 employees.
– Manatee County businesses receive five QRT grants totaling $410,374 for 340 employees, and 12 IWT grants totaling $237,782 for 1,286 employees.
Businesses in Hernando, Pasco and Sarasota counties only received IWT grants:
– Hernando: five grants totaling $51,560 for 47 employees
– Pasco; nine grants totaling $51,427 for 49 employees
– Sarasota: eight grants totaling $77,010 for 312 employees
Employment and wage growth varied widely for businesses that received the grants, OPPAGA said.
Employment increased for both IWT and QRT recipients statewide, ranging from a 15 percent increase for IWT recipients to a 23 percent increase for QRT recipients. However, wages increased more gradually, with growth ranging from 8 percent for IWT recipients to 3 percent for QRT recipients, according to report findings.
For QRT, 88 percent of respondents reported that the training grant had a positive impact on their business, and 33 percent reported that sales increased due to the grant, while 63 percent reported that the grant played a role in the decision to establish or expand in Florida. Similarly, for IWT, 93 percent of respondents reported that the training grant had a positive impact on their business, and 56 percent reported that sales increased due to the grant.
The report recommends eliminating a state requirement that Quick Response Training program grant funds flow through fiscal agents, who receive a 5 percent administrative fee for their service. OPPAGA said the fiscal agents “rarely provide training services to grantees as originally intended,” and that CareerSource Florida may no longer need their services because of the increased use of technology in the application and reimbursement process. The Hillsborough County School Board was cited in the report as one such fiscal agent for the QRT program.
The report also includes separate reviews of the Qualified Defense Contractor and Space Flight Business Tax Refund Program, the Military Base Protection Program, and International trade and business development programs. The full report is available here.