Dr. Ed Moore: Florida is Well Positioned for More Economic Growth

Florida has the talent and natural resources to be second to none in its economic development success.‭ ‬To continue to successfully market Florida domestically,‭ ‬nationally and globally,‭ ‬we must keep in mind the old real estate adage:‭ “‬Location,‭ ‬Location,‭ ‬Location.‭”

Florida’s location positions us well for the constant migration of other Americans to our state,‭ ‬attracted by our unimposing tax structure,‭ ‬our climate,‭ ‬our beaches and theme parks,‭ ‬and our focused way of life that allows our citizens to be as free as possible from government intrusion in our lives.‭ ‬Florida’s natural resources draw new residents,‭ ‬tourists and business people seeking the best location in America to visit,‭ ‬live and work.‭

Our policy task should be to wisely enhance,‭ ‬preserve and manage our ideal location for today’s Floridians and millions of new residents and tourists over the next decade.‭

Maybe we should modify that realty marketing strategy.‭ ‬Marketing Florida domestically,‭ ‬nationally and globally is all about‭ “‬Location,‭ ‬Education,‭ ‬Regulation.‭” ‬We need to sell ourselves based on our assets.

Florida is,‭ ‬thankfully,‭ ‬already a great economic development location to market.‭ ‬Twenty-two million residents and over‭ ‬100‭ ‬million visitors each year provide a compelling customer market.‭ ‬Our Interstate Road System and Rail System with‭ ‬12‭ ‬freight terminals effectively serve the entire nation and Canada.‭ ‬Florida’s‭ ‬15‭ ‬ports,‭ ‬16‭ ‬international airports and spaceport provide easy access to and from Europe,‭ ‬Africa,‭ ‬South America,‭ ‬Central America,‭ ‬and Mexico.‭

Florida’s current globally oriented population,‭ ‬with multi-lingual communities,‭ ‬and experienced businesses,‭ ‬provide a knowledgeable marketing team for companies,‭ ‬importers,‭ ‬exporters and investors.‭ ‬Florida’s statewide leadership and local leadership in government,‭ ‬associations and businesses are a focused and dedicated marketing team for Florida and its communities.‭

I was formerly the CEO of an association of the‭ ‬30‭ ‬Florida-based,‭ ‬non-profit Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida‭ (‬ICUF‭)‬.‭ ‬Those thirty institutions are active members of that marketing team too.‭ ‬ICUF members have over‭ ‬35,000‭ ‬employees,‭ ‬operating budgets totaling over‭ ‬$6‭ ‬billion and hold well over‭ ‬$10‭ ‬billion of total Florida assets.‭ ‬ICUF has around‭ ‬150‭ ‬Florida educational sites,‭ ‬awarding a significant portion of Florida’s bachelor’s and advanced degrees,‭ ‬and the state should examine how best to financially assist our citizens in choosing these programs.‭

ICUF brings more than‭ ‬60,000‭ ‬out-of-state students and their families to Florida as temporary residents and tourists.‭

Many of those students,‭ ‬upon graduation,‭ ‬stay in Florida and enrich our workforce and state economy.‭ ‬Many ICUF institutions also have educational sites throughout the nation and at partnering universities in Europe,‭ ‬Asia and South America.‭ ‬All of our institutions of higher education,‭ ‬both private and public,‭ ‬should be an integral component of our efforts to market Florida.‭ ‬They do much of that already.‭

So how do we find improved ways to enhance our assets and coordinate our efforts to push Florida ahead economically‭? ‬We do a lot of that,‭ ‬too:‭ ‬beach re-nourishment,‭ ‬spring and natural water improvements,‭ ‬estuary maintenance,‭ ‬and other water-related management activities.‭ ‬All are crucial aspects of maintaining and improving the product we market to the world.‭ ‬Think of our precious assets as ingredients for selling Florida‭ – ‬strengthen the magnets that attract investors.‭

What else must Florida do‭? ‬One priority‭ ‬-‭ ‬Florida must emphasize its educational reputation to Florida,‭ ‬national and global economic developers and employers.‭ ‬It must create stronger links between our outreach done by groups such as Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida to all of our institutions of higher education.‭ ‬Economic partnerships using our tremendous research capabilities and talent base should be a focused initiative.‭

Florida’s education system has grown fast and will continue to grow.‭ ‬Our four educational systems,‭ (‬vocational-technical schools,‭ ‬state universities,‭ ‬state colleges,‭ ‬and independent colleges and universities‭) ‬are among the largest in the nation.‭ ‬Their talent base is immense and a valuable asset for Florida.‭ ‬Using these educational assets to deliver graduates and campus resources to boost Florida’s economy is a critical assignment.‭

Rapidly growing and changing campuses are not so easily decoded or navigated by economic developers and businesses.‭ ‬Re-engineering that reputation and redesigning those services to economic developers and businesses requires three tactics:‭ ‬Coordinating,‭ ‬Consulting and Cataloging.‭ ‬Therefore,‭ ‬here are some ideas:

Florida’s four post-secondary education sectors and Florida’s economic developers should routinely coordinate to insert educational components into proposals to attract new national and global businesses and to expand current Florida businesses.‭ ‬This currently occurs in a piecemeal fashion.‭ ‬When former Gov.‭ ‬Rick Scott’s team was preparing a proposal for a national aerospace corporation that could locate anywhere,‭ ‬the Florida Institute of Technology,‭ ‬Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and the University of Florida,‭ ‬School of Engineering were enlisted to design and deliver tailored training and education as an element of the proposal.‭ ‬The proposal succeeded and Northrup-Grumman picked Melbourne for its new facility and its high-paying jobs.‭ ‬Such tailored educational elements should be an element in every Florida,‭ ‬national and global economic development proposal.‭

There is a growing critical shortage of teachers.‭ ‬This will continue.‭ ‬National news stories about critical teaching shortages are poorly received by businesses considering relocation or expansion.‭ ‬Just as in real estate marketing,‭ ‬educational reputation is a tremendous leveraging tool for decision-making.‭ ‬While we properly focus on the performance of teachers in our classrooms,‭ ‬even as our methods change,‭ ‬we ignore the pipeline decline at our peril.‭ ‬Gov.‭ ‬Ron DeSantis has already recognized this and through his initiative to get retired military into the classrooms,‭ ‬we see the beginnings of an aggressive strategy to lead the county in this area.‭ ‬There are similar production and regulatory failures in other high demand occupations and professions,‭ ‬as there are many options for addressing our critical employment needs.‭

Better coordination amongst regulators‭; ‬meaningful consultation with those affected by regulations sought to be imposed‭; ‬and the cataloging of multiple federal,‭ ‬state,‭ ‬and local regulations that affect employers costs could be tactics that all would welcome.‭

Florida is superbly positioned to continue to be economically successful and generate jobs in a state where people,‭ ‬tourists,‭ ‬and businesses want to live,‭ ‬visit and work.‭ ‬Better coordination and information sharing will help Florida be the premier economic development state in the nation.‭

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