Florida’s economy is on a major upswing, with more jobs becoming available every day. Thus said Jesse Panuccio, executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, who told that to 300 business leaders at Thursday’s Jan. 23 Career Source Polk 2014 Summit in Lakeland. Panuccio was speaking to the annual business conference hosted by what was Polk Works and is now known as Career Source Polk.
“Unemployment has dropped 5 percent in the last five years,” Panuccio said. “And, 446,300 new jobs have been added in Florida. That’s about half of what we lost when the recession was at its worst several years ago.”
The state Cabinet member said that all “measurable industries have grown” and “in December, there were 285,000 on-line jobs advertised in the state.”
“There has been a 12 percent increase in online job demand,” he said. Panuccio also said that the state was back at pre-recession numbers of visitors to Florida and is expected to reach 100 million visitors this year, climbing to 1.7 million next year.
“That means jobs,” he said. “And the national buzz about the state has grown and businesses are seeing that and coming here.”
He told the business group that Central Florida is seeing 500 new jobs added by Time Warner, 500 by Boeing and 700 by the Navy Federal Credit Union; in addition, Drake International will be adding 50 Polk jobs, Verizon will be adding 750 new jobs in Central Florida, Chico’s is adding another 150 in South Florida, USAA in Tampa will be growing by 1,200 new jobs and Amazon’s distribution centers in Hillsborough and Lakeland will boost the job numbers by another 1,000 jobs.
Panuccio explained that the job growth is directly related to the economic policies set forth by Gov. Rick Scott.
“Policy matters,” he explained. “Gov. Scott has created an opportunity environment based on sound fiscal policies and our low tax rates. All that appeals to businesses looking for growth.”
The executive director further said the state’s existing tax policies, which have included major cuts and will include more in the coming legislative session, make “Florida gets people to come here as tourists and then see how welcoming the state is, and that prompts businesses to relocate. Their money comes here because its treated well here,” he said.
Panuccio said the Scott administration has streamlined regulations to make an environment that is not over-regulatory.
“We can get business going in a very short time by cutting permitting times in half.”
Florida, however, needs to concentrate on educating its workforce.
“Education is key to keep our workforce pipeline going. We have to do everything we can to help people be employable,” he said. “Businesses have to know we have the workforce they need.”
He also said infrastructure is also key to further growth.
“The state’s seaports are undergoing an overhaul to accommodate shipping from the soon-to-be completed, wider, Panama Canal. “We need to be ready when the canal is completed. We have to be able to handle the mega-ships that will be sailing through it. And it could be a one-time opportunity.”
Panuccio explained that the Port of Miami and Port Tampa Bay were both readying themselves to handle additional shipping from the Panama Canal.
“We’ve got to make sure we’re ready. Miami is getting ready for additional bigger ships and Tampa is getting ready for more cruise ships and to handle more freight. It’s going to come. We want it to come here and not bypass us for the larger eastern seaports.”
Career Source Polk Director Stacy Campbell-Domineck added that, “We have to do a better job of connecting our talented people to jobs. We have to make sure that people are trained for the jobs that are coming here. That’s what we have to do.”