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Enterprise Florida Top Job Draws a Crowd

September 12, 2016 - 4:45pm

With dozens of candidates seeking the job, finalists to run Florida's business-recruitment agency could be named later this week.

Enterprise Florida, which remains on pace to select its next president by Sept. 28, received 101 applications for the position. A search committee expects to create a shortlist on Friday.

"Our goal that day will be to narrow and confirm a shorter list, maybe it's three, maybe it's something different than three, but it will be something shorter than what we're working on now," said committee Chairman Stan Connally, the president and CEO of Pensacola-based Gulf Power.

The finalists will be asked to interview individually and as a group with the committee, Connally said during a telephone conference callMonday. The goal is for the committee then to forward one candidate to the full Enterprise Florida Board of Directors, which will make a final decision. The position is expected to pay between $175,000 and $200,000 a year.

The committee is seeking to come up with a replacement for former President Bill Johnson, who was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott in 2015 but stepped down this year after legislators declined to go along with Scott's request to provide $250 million to Enterprise Florida for corporate recruitment.

Johnson's departure came as Scott ordered a review of the public-private agency that resulted in slashing staff and operations by one-third.

Scott, who is on the Enterprise Florida board, told reporters outside the Capitol on Monday he intends to work with the committee but doesn't have favorite from among the applicants.

"We've got to keep focusing on how we continue to recruit companies, how we continue to make this a state in which every business wants to grow," Scott said.

Among the applicants are: Joe Hice, Enterprise Florida's chief marketing officer; Richard Biter, a retired Florida Department of Transportation assistant secretary; and Susan Pareigis, former president & CEO of the Florida Council of 100, a group of business executives that has long advised governors.

Other applicants include: Adam Brecht, an executive assistant to former U.S. Sen. Alfonse D'Amato of New York; Greg Pilkington, who is responsible for budgetary functions at the World Customs Organization in Brussels; Keith Brown, former head of real estate for the Jacksonville Transportation Authority; Michael Finney, who until Oct. 2015 was senior economic growth adviser to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder; and Steven Petty, former chief economist for Florida TaxWatch.

Enterprise Florida Vice Chairman Alan Becker said during the committee meeting that creating a short list shouldn't be difficult if the panel looks for candidates who have knowledge of economic development, experience working with a legislature or government, and organizational leadership experience.

"There are plenty of them that have one of those, a lot have two, and very few that have all three," Becker said. "My guess is we'll be able to narrow it down," Becker said.

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