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Nancy Smith

Gov. Rick Scott Brings Back Department of Commerce, Will Set It Up Next Door

January 26, 2011 - 6:00pm

During a three-hour meeting Thursday morning with Enterprise Florida, Gov. Rick Scott said he will bring the public-private partnership and two other state agencies into a newly created department of commerce -- and house the department right next door to his office where he can give it the attention it deserves.

Scott said he will combine his Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development and the Agency for Workforce Innovation with Enterprise Florida, the partnership many government watchers claim has been under-performing for years.

"The governor has been well aware of the complaints," said a source close to Scott. "He makes calls all over the country; people report back their experience with Florida and the agencies they deal with."

Scott emphasized that the state must develop "clear relationships based on a single point of contact" and coordination at the state level.

He also explained that his new department will help him fulfill his promise of creating 700,000 jobs in seven years "by maintaining the Enterprise Florida public/private partnership, eliminating duplication, streamlining processes and allowing each function to play to its strengths while more strongly aligning other public/private partnerships in the state with the governors office."

Since before his election, the governor has promised to reduce the size of the state work force by 5 percent, vowing to combine and reduce, or eliminate altogether, a number of agencies. He did not say how many jobs the new umbrella department will make redundant.

After the Thursday meeting, the business community cheered Scott's decision, calling it a promise kept.

In a prepared statement, Barney Bishop, president and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida, said, "AIF applauds Governor Rick Scott's proposal to create a 21st century department of commerce that will share his laser focus on economic development and job creation. ...

"By establishing a new department of commerce to orchestrate all of Florida's business development activities, we can better coordinate efforts and harness the collective strengths of each entity responsible for facilitating employment opportunities in the Sunshine State.

"The fact that Governor Scott will be so engaged in this new agency, to the point where it will be elevated to plaza level status, is more than encouraging. ..."

Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber likes Scott's action, too. Of particular interest is the governors recognition that speed in review and decision-making represents an opportunity for improving Floridas competitive position against other states.

"As details emerge related to the governors plan, its clear that he has heard the calls for improvement from legislative leaders during the past year. During the 2010 Jobs Summit, then-incoming Senate President Mike Haridopolos and Speaker Dean Cannon called for greater responsiveness to the economic development marketplace, as well as an emphasis on supporting companies already in the state," he said.

Florida had a commerce department for decades, until in 1996 it was merged into Enterprise Florida.

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

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