PolitiFact Fl Pokes Holes Into Gov. Scott's Enterprise Florida Claim

Mar 8, 2017

Florida's legislative session is just beginning, but the battle over Governor Rick Scott's most prized programs has been going on for a while. 

He claims the program that lures out-of-state businesses helps poor communities. WUSF's Steve Newborn checks out that claim with Josh Gillin of PolitiFact Florida.
 

As Florida's legislative session begins anew, one of the biggest tussles is over business incentive programs, like Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida. House speaker Richard Corcoran is backing down from plans to do away with the tourism arm, but he's still gung-ho on abolishing the program that pays businesses to relocate to the state.

Gov. Scott isn't taking this lying down - he's been on a statewide tour to drum up support for his prized programs. He made his case during a recent meeting with reporters in the state capitol.

"When the House wants to stop Enterprise Florida, they are hurting our poorest communities. They're hurting our rural communities," said Scott, a Republican.

Is this true?  Here's PolitiFact Florida's investigation:


There is evidence that deals by Enterprise Florida, a quasi-governmental agency largely funded through tax dollars, don’t always amount to jobs.

In January, a joint report by the state Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability and the office of the state’s chief economist criticized many of the programs. They either "underperformed," had been "unable to achieve job goals" or had "inadequate reporting requirements," according to the report.

Most of the incentives money was awarded to existing Florida businesses that have over 1,000 employees, according to the report.

Chief economist Amy Baker told state legislators in January that nearly 70 percent of state-level incentive and investment programs lost money during the past three years.

We wanted to know the picture for rural areas.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, which tracks created jobs, sent us data showing 2,048 jobs had been created in rural counties as a result of Enterprise Florida incentive projects since Scott took office.

There are some caveats about this data — including a 12- to 18-month lag for companies to report the number of jobs created and for the state to confirm the numbers.

Even though some jobs in rural counties did materialize, Scott can’t prove that they were created only as a result of Enterprise Florida’s involvement.

"It is never valid to point to aggregate economic trends as a way of justifying incentive programs, because incentives are too small and touch too few employers to be a credible cause of broad employment trends," said Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, a labor-funded resource center that tracks subsidies.

We tried to get to get an idea of how many new jobs in rural counties could be the result of government assistance, and Moody’s analyst Kwame Donaldson offered to crunch the numbers. (He defined rural counties as those which don’t include one of the 22 metropolitan areas. That means Donaldson counted 23 counties while the state counted 29.)

By Donaldson’s count, there were 48,000 more jobs in rural counties since January 2011, a 25 percent jump. The growth was higher than growth in metro areas, he added.

The state claimed responsibility for 2,048 jobs — or around 5 percent of 48,000.

That’s not significant compared with the natural growth of rural areas, Donaldson said.

Job gains through Enterprise Florida projects have been relatively small compared with overall job growth in those counties. Nonpartisan reviews of incentive programs don't prove that rural communities rely on Enterprise Florida for economic stability. Finally, Scott can’t prove that the jobs would not have materialized without the state money.

The statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.