When I saw recent reports of the oil and natural gas industry’s impact on our state, my interest piqued. As the president and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, I represent the needs of more than 80,000 minority-owned businesses in the Sunshine State, so I am especially attuned to anything that affects our state’s economy. We support the development of all types of energy, natural gas being one of them.
The fuel industry in Florida accounts for 2.9 percent of the state’s total employment and 3.1 percent of the state’s total income. It supports over 266,000 jobs -- jobs which boast salaries more than $20,000 greater than the state average. It also contributes over $11.9 billion in worker wages and adds over $22 billion to the state economy.
Typically, when we think about jobs in the oil and natural gas industry, we do not think much further than the men who work on the rigs. The fuel industry supports many different jobs, however. These include anything from engineers, environmental experts and rig hands to truck drivers and contractors. The oil and natural gas industry already has a large presence in our state, but further expansion could bring even more jobs to Florida.
Florida’s development of oil and natural gas dates all the way back to the 1940s and since then the industry has flooded Florida with largely positive benefits -- everything from energy security to a booming economy. Thanks to the expansion of the domestic oil industry, America has surpassed Saudi Arabia as the world’s leading oil producer. Now, foreign rivals cannot threaten our country with oil embargoes and Americans can feel secure without the thought of an energy crisis looming ahead.
Tourism is another major industry in Florida, but many do not realize domestic oil production plays a significant part in our booming tourism sector. Producing oil domestically decreases gas prices, and low gas prices give more people the ability to travel. Additionally, oil and natural gas is used to power theme parks -- a major tourist attraction for the state. Theme parks require a lot of energy to keep them running and natural gas keeps the lights on, the roller coasters running and the guests happy.
The positive economic impact of Florida’s oil and natural gas industry stretches to other industries, as well. The $11.9 billion in worker wages are poured back into the community, as employees buy houses, dine at local restaurants and purchase Florida-grown products. Also, the billions of dollars in economic impact help boost other sectors such as manufacturing, logistics, banking and construction.
It is clear the oil and natural gas industry already provides good jobs and revenue to our state, all while adhering to strict environmental regulations. We should embrace opportunities to expand the industry’s presence, which can only help Florida continue to become a leader in job creation and an economic powerhouse.
Julio Fuentes is the President and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce