On Tuesday, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, who is running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, delivered remarks at the Florida Chamber Foundation’s 2017 Military, Defense and Veterans Opportunities Summit. Below are excerpts from his remarks:
Think of the millions of soldiers, sailors and airmen whose first introduction to Florida is through training here. All the pilots in Pensacola and folks who are stationed here. Folks who end up at one of our combatant commands, and they fall in love with Florida. They resolve that at some point, they’re going to end up back here with their families to begin the next chapter of their lives in the Sunshine State.
Florida needs to be in an open position of offense because no one is better suited to take talent, take investment, take missions from other states than we are. And the reason for that is we have been a multi-year process not just to BRAC-proof our existing installations, but to be able to play offense in any future decisions that are made about moving missions around.
For example, the natural resources policy of our state has baked into it military readiness, encroachment protections. When the Department of Agriculture evaluates Rural and Family Lands purchases, one of those considerations is the opportunity to create a buffer around existing bases.
DoD and MILCON spending is a force multiplier for private investment in Florida’s economy. So not only are we focused on the pure military and homeland mission, but how to leverage that into private investment. When you look at what we have leveraged because of our commitment to veterans and military, that has resulted in Eastern Shipbuilding in Panama City getting a multi-billion-dollar Coast Guard contract to build the next generation of cutters in northwest Florida. And creating a workforce opportunity never before imagined for that community in that industry.
When you look at the growth of the Space Coast, now the aerospace coast, it goes from south of Merritt Island all the way up to Jacksonville now. And we look to the future that the glory days of Florida’s space age will not have been the Apollo program, and will not have been the space shuttle program, but it will be the joint process of civilian and military investment that is going forward right now, where the factories that will build the satellites will be in Florida. The rockets will be assembled in Florida. They will be launched from Florida. They will land in Florida. They will be refurbished and repurposed to relaunch in Florida. We’ll be in the entire life cycle and entire supply chain of the commercial space enterprise.
The military and defense spending in Florida is a force multiplier for the private sector investments that we’re seeing take place now. Talent retention is the single most important part of this puzzle. Who wouldn’t want to hire the talent that Uncle Sam has spent a fortune developing for us? For cyber. For IT. For healthcare. What superintendent wouldn’t want retired military to be that role model in their classrooms, in their administration? What community wouldn’t want an army of small business men and women, fresh out of the military, applying their passion, their drive, their discipline to free enterprise to rebuild our communities, to take our economy in a totally new direction?
And that’s why we’ve made it a priority to eliminate the application fees for veterans transitioning into civilian life. We ought to tear down the barriers that are preventing veterans from immediately and seamlessly transitioning into a civilian economy in the Sunshine State, and together we can do that.
That’s why I wrote my old friend Heather Wilson, who I served with and who is now Secretary of the Air Force, and said the F-35 belongs in northeast Florida, and all of your objective metrics demonstrate that.
We need to make sure that our veterans nursing homes continue to expand and grow and add to meet the growing needs of a growing veterans population in our state. It’s not just about taking care of veterans at the very end of life, though, it’s about giving that 42-year-old retired major the opportunity to start an exciting new chapter in the Sunshine State. To launch that business in Panama City, in Bartow, in Mayport, in Green Cove Springs, in Homestead.
It’s about making sure there’s a seamless transition for our state colleges and our universities to take a wave of individuals who already have their security clearances and give them the topping off skills to create an entirely new industry in cybersecurity here in the Sunshine State. Something that the whole world—civilian and military alike—is desperate to develop more talent for, particularly in the United States. That can be done in Florida.
These are the things that are so important – big things, little things; structural things, symbolic things. We’ve hosted 405 events, serving 3,100 veterans to have access to public lands and private lands to hunt, to fish, to lobster, to kayak, to sail, to do all kinds of things in the most beautiful outdoor areas of anywhere in the country. They get to do it in Florida.
And Florida will roll out the welcome mat for veterans and their families who want to make Florida their home.
Adam Putnam was elected Florida agriculture commissioner in 2010.