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Bonus Approved for Top Scott Business Recruiter

August 9, 2013 - 6:00pm

The man who heads Gov. Rick Scotts efforts to recruit businesses to Florida received a $70,000 bonus on Thursday.

The Enterprise Florida Inc. board approved the bonus for Gray Swoope, who receives $230,000-a-year as president and chief executive officer of the public-private organization. The bonus is the same as he received a year ago.

The money, along with up to $630,000 in bonuses that will be allocated to the 80 employees of Enterprise Florida, was roundly criticized by several groups, with Integrity Florida, Progress Florida and The Tea Party Network asking for a delay in the vote.

But Scott, who received only $45 million of the $278 million he sought from the Legislature this year for Enterprise Florida to use as incentives, defended Swoope on Thursday during the board meeting at the Hilton Sandestin.

I talked Gray into coming, and hes done a great job, said Scott, who recruited Swoope from Mississippi in 2011.

Scott pointed to more than 350 deals that have been signed by Enterprise Florida in the past three years as a sign that Swoope and his staff have helped make Florida a state that businesses consider when relocating. During that time, the state has tried to recover from the economic recession, and the unemployment rate has remained above 7 percent.

Hes helped create an environment where people want to move their companies here, move their jobs here, move plants here, move call centers here, hes built a great team, Scott said.

Dan Krassner, executive director of Integrity Florida, which has been a critic of many aspects of Enterprise Florida, said the bonuses should have been based on actual jobs created, not the potential of future jobs.

"Floridians know that bonuses should be paid on results,'' Krassner said. "But the rules are different for Enterprise Florida.

Many of the jobs packages signed by Enterprise Florida are based on future jobs being created, with most incentive money distributed to businesses after benchmarks are reached.

Board member Alan Becker said the bonuses help as Enterprise Florida employees work at the lower end of rates considered competitive with the market. And he added that while similar bonus packages have been announced in the past, this is the first year there will be enough money for the full amount based on a set funding formula.

This is the first year we have enough money for what they have been promised they would receive if they did a good job, Becker said.

Enterprise Florida noted in a release that the board doesn't determine individual employee bonus amounts and that the bonus allocations are based on performance goals.

The release also said that while 78 percent of EFI's operating revenue -- 83 percent when administered and pass-through contracts are figured in -- comes from state funds, no public dollars are used for the bonuses.

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