Now more than ever, people across the world seek to find a good job — one that provides financial stability and confidence for themselves and their families. At the Orlando Economic Partnership, we work to secure new job opportunities by helping existing companies in our region expand and by bringing in new companies. This spurs economic activity and fosters economic diversification so we are not reliant on a few industries that leave us vulnerable when economic downturns happen.
To continue to generate job growth, we must stay the course and provide the expertise needed to ensure our state and region are heads above the rest when companies look for the best location for their business. Without Enterprise Florida, Orlando might not have won major deals like ADP, which is creating 1,600 jobs; United States Tennis Association, which moved its divisional headquarters to Orlando’s Lake Nona, creating 196 new jobs; or KPMG, which is investing $430 million in our region.
While Orlando’s assets like infrastructure, talent and tax climate were important to those companies, the reality is, a number of communities across the U.S. could meet those needs as well.
In fact, many communities offer aggressive incentives to win the jobs and capital those projects create, and as a result, they are successful in diversifying their economies with high-performing industries. With a zero in the incentives column, our communities will easily be eliminated from consideration early in the location-selection process. Our economy will most certainly suffer.
But don’t just take my word for it. Look at what George Tobjy, tax managing director of KPMG, had to say about his company’s decision to build an 800,000-square-foot development facility in Orlando: “The incentives offered to locate in Orlando were not the strongest — although they were solid. Other factors combined with the incentive made the deal. The availability of incentives to support the project was an important consideration and factor in our decision to locate the training facility in Orlando.”
And Virgil Christian, senior director of market development and collegiate tennis for the USTA, says: “Even though Orlando had advantages in transportation infrastructure, great weather and a place people already want to come, other locations have these things, too. Florida did not have the highest-value incentives, and Orlando was not the lowest overall cost location. Without incentives, Orlando would not have made the first cut, and in the end, it turned out to be the right partnership for USTA.”
Clearly incentives matter. So does accountability. Incentives must be well structured and disbursed only after a company fulfills its obligations in terms of the number of jobs created at the salary levels promised and with the capital investment made. The return on taxpayers’ investments must also be realized. This is good policy that maintains transparency and builds public trust in the program. Taxpayers should know they are getting a good deal.
We can’t slow our efforts to grow and diversify our economy now by cutting funding to Enterprise Florida and eliminating the incentives program. If Florida does not offer incentives to companies that will strengthen our economy, we will be at a competitive disadvantage and those companies will go elsewhere.
That would be a loss for everyone.
As seen in the Orlando Sentinel here.