Innovation Not Elimination for Enterprise Florida
By Doug Pace
It is an interesting day when a CEO with less than 2 months’ tenure with an organization resigns and our state House of Representatives passes legislation to eliminate the agency responsible for job growth in the State of Florida – Enterprise Florida. If you are not familiar with Enterprise Florida, it is a public private partnership that has been tasked with recruiting companies from out of state while also helping companies that are currently located in Florida with growth.
Both objectives are intended to result in more jobs for the citizens of Florida and an increased tax base for the funding of government services. In many cases incentives are used to ensure that Florida is competitive in a company’s selection process versus other locations. Some argue that incentives do not work and that they are the equivalent of “corporate welfare.”
I argue that regardless of your view of incentives, Enterprise Florida is a victim of the lack of innovation across our governmental systems.
I like to think of myself as an optimist and someone who is politically neutral. My family settled in Florida before it was a state and I truly want the best for all of us that call it home. Unfortunately, the us vs. them mentality that has become rampant in our government is starting to impact some organizations that have positive missions. I am active in the community and have had the honor of being appointed to many boards for non-profit, chambers of commerce, and governmental agencies.
Over the years I have reflected on how some organizations seem to have continuous success yet others seem to struggle despite the resources they have available. My experience has found that unfortunately personal agendas seem to permeate management and board members of some organizations. Individuals have a point to prove or want to show how they can create change.
The most successful organizations being a collection of positive individuals together that can leave their agendas at the door. They can work together to see all the issues facing an organization and address them with an effort to build. When individuals with positive outlooks come together to solve community issues, the result is normally extraordinary.
My proposal is that instead of eliminating Enterprise Florida and critiquing its programs we come together and create something that is truly unique. We develop programs that make corporations line up to relocate to Florida! We stop trying to compete by offering the same things that other states provide and focus our efforts on building – not destroying.
We get our most innovative and creative minds to help – small business, large corporations, community leaders, and educators. I challenge us to think bigger, to think about how special Florida really is, to think about how a community really grows, and to understand that we still need a central agency to coordinate these efforts!
Although there are many programs we could implement, one of the most innovative I have been exposed to is the idea of innovation grants. Innovation grants work to combine the needs of our state colleges and universities, the needs of our employers, and the needs of our workforce. Innovation grants would provide credits to qualified organizations that can be used within our universities and colleges for research, consulting, training, office space, and incubator services.
The credits provide a positive funding source for our schools, create jobs and training programs for our workforce, provide resources for small business, and give employers something that can’t be found anywhere else. It’s a reinvestment program in ourselves that would leverage real world situations and provide positive results for employers located within the state. An approach like this would retain and attract the best educators, retain and attract the best students, and further brand Florida as the innovative education driven economy.
My challenge to our legislature is simple. I ask our legislators to rethink eliminating Enterprise Florida. I ask our legislature to bring together innovative minds in the state and innovate on what Enterprise Florida could be. I ask that team to create innovative programs like innovation grants. I ask all of us to think of programs that will set Florida apart, drive jobs, and drive workforce development. We need to focus on making Florida a great place to do business and I encourage innovation over elimination.
Doug Pace has been considered one of the most innovative minds in management consulting and business strategy for over two decades. Doug is currently President and CEO of Stonehill, a growth strategy firm focused on driving results through innovation, influence, culture, and customer experience. Prior to founding Stonehill, Doug was Chief Operating Officer and equity partner in Bayshore Solutions. During his tenure with the firm it was recognized by Ad Age magazine ten years in a row as a top 100 digital agency, six years by INC Magazine as one of the fastest growing companies in the United States, by the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce as the Small Business of the Year, and by Microsoft as the Global Partner of the Year.