Florida’s economy is improving, and soon voters will have to decide whether Gov. Rick Scott deserves enough of the credit to be reelected next year.
Scott made jobs his top priority. He said his administration would make efforts leading to 700,000 new jobs over seven years – a number above the economic growth forecast by state economists.
But an investigation by the Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau shows those efforts are slow going, and some of the jobs Scott has announced lately barely pay above minimum wage.
The bureau dug through a lot of public records for a three-part series on Scott’s jobs promise and whether he’s on track to achieve it. Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee bureau chief Steve Bousquet was among the reporters who sifted through mountains of files to find the numbers.
WLRN: Steve, tell us what Gov. Scott promised to do and what he’s been able to deliver.
Bousquet: Gov. Rick Scott has very aggressively traveled the state promising new job creation by lots of private companies – more than 340 in all – but the jobs themselves take years to create for a whole variety of factors. Companies change their management. Their priorities change. The economy [changes].
We just wanted to make the point and go back and follow up and see where are the jobs that Rick Scott has promised. The answer that we found is the vast majority of them have not yet been established.
As Scott himself told us in an interview, a lot of factors are at work.
“They’ve got to figure out their business plan, the companies do. What we do at the state level is do something that’s good for our taxpayers,” Scott said. “A call-center job, you know, that’s a job that pays. But look, some people like hospitality, some people like technology, some people like to work in shipping. Everybody’s got a different goal.”
WLRN: The report also mentions some deals that have collapsed and others that are dormant. Can you tell us about some that haven’t materialized as planned?
Bousquet: One that we focused on and devoted some attention to is Colt’s Manufacturing Company. That’s a big company from Hartford, Connecticut that makes firearms. Two years ago, Rick Scott went to the city of Kissimmee and announced that there would be 63 jobs coming to a plant being retrofitted for Colt’s in Osceola County.
Two years later, they haven’t created a single job. The taxpayers are on the hook for about $450,000 in improvements to that building. A number of things happened. You had the Newtown shooting massacre, which was in Connecticut. The company went through a management shakeup. But the fact remains those are promised jobs that were not created.
WLRN: You got the attention of the Governor’s office with the report. It has issued multiple press releases responding to what it refers to as myths. Specifically, the Governor says it will take years to make all of this happen.
Bousquet: Yes, as a matter of fact, the very first quote in our story is from Gov. Rick Scott himself saying “these things take years.” There are extenuating circumstances in a couple of the incentives that the Governor’s office thinks we overlooked.
Rick Scott is running for reelection as "the jobs governor" who kept his promise to focus on the economy and create jobs. We simply went through a detailed exercise of going back to each and every one of these job creation announcements involving incentives and said, "OK, you told us the jobs were coming. This is a status report on which jobs are there and which jobs are not."
To read the Times/Herald series, click here.