Guest column: TaxWatch: Florida's Growth: In 2014 and Beyond

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By Jerry Parrish

Tallahassee

Chief Economist

Florida TaxWatch

The Sunshine State is a little brighter in 2014. Florida is emerging from the recession, and the most compelling evidence lies in recent job growth estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In 2013, Florida experienced its highest job growth since 2005. Not only is the state adding jobs, it is adding more than nearly all other U.S. states. Last year, Florida ranked first in job creation per capita among the highest population states, including New York, California and Texas, and comes second only to oil-rich North Dakota in job gains by percentage.

This impressive job growth can be attributed to the success of the state’s investments in various industries and the commitment of our state Legislature to pay off state debt and make Florida an attractive place for companies to expand or relocate.

One of the major categories of job growth in 2013 included the leisure and hospitality sector, which added 24,500 jobs. This sector is an integral part of the Florida tourism industry, but as shown by a 2013 Florida TaxWatch report, job creation resulting from tourism investment impacts a diverse group of sectors. Not only can tourism investment be credited with the creation of specific tourism-related jobs, but also to job creation in sectors such as retail, administrative services, construction and transportation. New tourism jobs in Florida in 2013 is a good indicator that jobs in other sectors should anticipate growth.

To keep tourism jobs growing, and to continue growing the economy, Gov. Rick Scott has committed more funds to tourism investment in 2014. With this increased funding, Florida can expect to see continued job growth in a wide variety of sectors that help to grow Florida’s economy and make it more diverse a wise investment for Florida’s future.

Tourism isn’t the only factor contributing to 2013’s job boom. Also making a significant contribution to growth was the expansion of Florida’s existing companies and the recruitment of new companies to our state. An experienced team of economic developers at the state, regional, and local levels are attracting new investment by sharing all of the benefits Florida has to offer, and that the Sunshine State is a great place to do business.

A recent analysis by the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research office confirms that Florida is receiving positive returns on investments in economic development programs, with the most commonly used program returning more than $6 of state revenues for each $1 the state invests. Additionally, expanding and recruiting these high-wage jobs helps diversify the Florida economy. Although the value of diversification is difficult to quantify, it is substantial and will help Florida, its local governments, and its citizens better manage the next economic downturn.

However, all of this growth would have been difficult if Florida leaders had not remained committed to financially sound policies and fiscally responsible investment decisions. Florida has managed to pay off more than $3.5 billion in state debt over the last two years and regularly contributes to increasing state reserves. This allows the state to keep tax rates low, which helps Florida companies to invest in more employees and provide more jobs to Floridians, while remaining competitive in the global marketplace.

As we look to 2014, the state’s job market should improve even further with several recent proposals included in Gov. Scott’s budget. A proposed $100 million investment in tourism marketing will pay dividends in the form of job growth and creation across a variety of industries. Investments in recruiting new companies and expanding Florida companies will create more high-wage jobs and further diversify the economy, as will investments in Florida ports and connected infrastructure.

Florida TaxWatch encourages the Legislature to take up these proposed investment opportunities to ensure continued economic growth and even more job creation in 2014.

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