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Nancy Smith

Gov. Good-Time's Job-Creating Fumbles: A Charlie Crist Story

June 26, 2011 - 6:00pm

Is it just me, or do these guys in the mainstream media have the memory of a fruit fly?

As good as Gov. Rick Scott has been at pursuing job creation, his predecessor Charlie Crist, was even better at pursuing the opposite -- absolutely nothing. Make that worse than nothing. Surely the press remembers.

Charlie's idea of fixing the economy was riding the Washington gravy train, importing nonrecurring, strings-attached stimulus money, money that did nothing to help the 1.1 million out-of-work Floridians.

Yet, mainstreamers' stories continue to suggest the real job creation started not with Rick Scott's forays to California or Panama or Canada in his own plane, but as a natural turn in the economy and as a result of Governor Charlie's initiatives.

Good grief, what initiatives are those?

Could they be Governor High-Flying's two trade missions? The ones my friends at Enterprise Florida tell me looked like winners -- and were even reported as winners -- but "never fostered a penny of overseas business," never produced a single job, contract or fulfilled promise of export?

Let's look at the second mission first. It's my favorite. And I think Warner Brothers based "Sex and the City 2" on it. Call it a lavish 12-day business development trip in the summer of 2008 -- OK, maybe not to Abu Dhabi, but it did include a nice little whirl to London, Paris, St. Petersburg and Madrid. It was supposed to cost taxpayers $255,000 but ended up just shy of half a mill.

There's some consolation. In a year that produced a $2 billion deficit in the state budget, a few of the business execs who traveled with the gov covered $30,000 of his expenses. That included $8,000 in first-class tickets, $1,300 in minibar tabs and, as Associated Press reported at the time, $320 for electric fans to keep him cool while he was delivering his speeches.

Electric fans in Europe?

How did the tab get to $430,000? Well, if you're a "Sex and the City" fan, you'll understand. Governor Glitz-and-Glam came over all Samantha. He didn't want to go it alone. He felt the need to bring along Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte. In fact, taxpayers paid for more than two dozen fabulously fashionable (I'm told) people to accompany him, including a photographer, a spokeswoman, four aides, two agency heads and nine bodyguards.

Ah, the fun, the fashion, the friendship.

The bodyguards alone spent more than $148,000 on meals, hotels, transportation and "stuff," including $630 in dry cleaning. (Mon dieux, your clothes do get easily soiled in Paris.)

Now, Rick Scott hasn't been to Europe yet. I'm sure a trip to the old country looms in his future. But I'm betting 1) it will ring up cheaper than Governor Rolex's and 2) it will be measurably more successful.

As for Charlie's first trade mission, he doesn't much like talking about it and I don't blame him. It was a mission to Brazil and it took place during five days in November 2007.

Enterprise Florida put the event together as part of its strategy to market Florida products and services internationally. Brazil was then, and remains, the states largest trading partner, with trade totaling more than $12 billion.

Here, by all accounts, is what happened: The plane landed in Sao Paulo. Charlie had prepared and rehearsed a gracious we're-glad-to-be-here-with-our-trading-partner speech, and he was proud of it. But when he finally got the chance to deliver his address, surrounded by dignitaries, diplomats and high-ranking government officials, people didn't laugh where they were supposed to, didn't clap when he finished. The assembled Brazilians just looked at each other, a little puzzled, a little embarrassed

Charlie had prepared his speech in Spanish. The language of Brazil is Portuguese.

An Enterprise Florida official assures me that even though the Team Florida Brazil trade mission wasn't wildly successful, it had nothing to do with Governor Gaffe's speech. He blamed the world economy, which was beginning to tank in 2007.

My point in all this is to assure you that there is a discernible difference between the job-creating philosophies, effort and results of Charlie Crist and Rick Scott.

Scott campaigned and no doubt won on his promise of 700,000 new jobs over seven years -- all of it driven by a plan that includes tax cuts, reduced government spending, streamlined regulation and privatization of services. It's a plan painful for some early on, but give it the full term before you oppose it. Let's see where he is with his jobs creation scheme in four years.

Charlie Crist never had a plan. When the bottom dropped out of the economy, he had nothing. I wish the mainstream media would temper their Rick Scott vitriol with the reality of the empty suit Charlie really was.

Oh, yes, and in case you didn't know, Florida led the nation in job creation in May. We actually posted 28,000 new workers in nonagricultural jobs more than twice that of runner-up Ohio. I admit, we have nothing to brag about yet. But Florida is moving in the right direction.


This is an opinion column: Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com, or at (850) 727-0859.

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