Dean Barber

Florida: It’s Not Just for Fun Anymore

In Corporate Site Selection and Economic Development on March 13, 2016 at 11:35 am

Back in 1969, Anita Bryant was the brand ambassador for the Florida Citrus Commission. Speaking on the all-important subject of orange juice, she said, “It’s not just for breakfast anymore.”

I mention this only because perception goes a long way in business, as it does in life.

While tourism continues to be a huge business in Florida (105 million tourists came to the state last year), economic developers there are continually fighting the perception that sun and fun is all that Florida has to offer.

Well, that’s just not so.

Still, I have to tell you that I only drink orange juice at breakfast, and I suspect I’m not alone at that.

A New Brand Campaign

Last month, Enterprise Florida Inc., the statewide economic development organization charged with recruiting and growing industry in the state, launched a new branding campaign: “Florida — The Future is Here.”

It debunks the notion that Florida is only a place for sun and play, but in fact is the home to some serious industry leaders in all sorts of highly advanced and technical sectors.

Personally, I would have gone with: “Florida – It’s not just for breakfast anymore.” Ok, that might need a little work.

The new, agreed-upon advertising campaign, funded to the tune of $10 million, is set to run in national and international print, online, television and radio outlets. No less key, the Legislature has approved $8.5 million in recurring annual funding to keep it going.

But what lawmakers giveth, they can also ignoreth. (That’s not a real word.)

No Fund for You

In the latest session, Florida Gov. Rick Scott went to the Legislature with two high-profile items: $1 billion in tax cuts and a $250 million incentives package. What he got was $129.1 million in tax cuts and his “Florida Enterprise Fund” zeroed out altogether.

Gov. Scott’s proposed enterprise fund was touted as a $250 million, three-year trust to incentivize the most competitive business deals, but lawmakers gave him nothing, nada, zilch.

Florida is not the first nor will it be the last state where state lawmakers have given the back of their hands to economic development incentive programs that they deem as “corporate welfare.”

Strange as it may seem, it’s where the hard left and the hard right in politics actually meet.

Wrote Rick Homans, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Partnership:

“By failing to fund the Florida Enterprise Fund, we not only jeopardize all of the projects in our pipeline today, we send a message that we’re not prepared to compete for the highly coveted jobs of tomorrow.

“Companies look for consistency and dependability. A decision to eliminate one of the state’s cornerstone incentive programs delivers the opposite message.”

But at least the new advertising campaign will be funded, a first in many years. It will focus on industries on which Florida especially wants to base its economy in coming years.

Aerospace Out the Wazoo

Aerospace is one of those target industries and where there has been success. There are nearly 500 aerospace companies in Florida, manufacturing and assembling parts, focusing on intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and missiles.

Boeing, Embraer, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Pratt & Whitney, and Sikorsky are there to name a few. Virtually every major defense contractor from the U.S. has a presence in Florida.

The state has more than 50,700 active duty military and a significant number of veterans, as well as rocket scientists, machinists, pilots, and engineers are part of Florida’s flexible, “badgeable” talent pool.

Life Sciences Rule

Then there’s the life sciences. Florida, yes. Florida, is home to some of the nation’s most highly regarded research centers; over 1,100 biotech, pharmaceutical and medical devices companies.

Breaking it down further, there are more than 260 biotech companies and world renowned R&D institutes specializing in therapeutics, diagnostics, industrial/ag biotech.

And get this, Florida is ranked 2nd among states for FDA registered medical device manufacturing facilities. Nearly 19,000 Floridians work in this industry.

Finally, Florida has more than 220 pharmaceutical manufacturing companies developing and manufacturing generics, nutraceuticals prescription and over the counter drugs. That industry employs some 4,500 people in Florida.

There are other target industries. They include defense and homeland security, information technology, financial and professional services, among others.

Last week, I was in Florida at the invitation of Enterprise Florida Inc. Like many site consultants, I will go on an occasional familiarization tour to learn about a place, especially if that place would be of interest to a corporate client.

Brilliant Kids

At dinners where economic developers and site selection consultants come together, EFI does something a little different which I really like. It brings in local college students who illustrate the level of talent that resides in Florida.

Let’s face it, smart companies need smart people, so this is an altogether fitting move.

At one of these dinners last week, I listened to a local economic developer speak about her county, which was most appropriate. Then real estate developer told us about his mixed-used project coming on-line, which was interesting.

But it was those brilliant kids who really impressed me. Tania Rodriguez, a pre-med honors student from the Florida Atlantic University, sat at my table and answered all my question about the science of sleep and fruit flies.

Monique Tromp sat another table, but prior to the dinner, I learned that she a scholar for the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience Scholars Program. There she conducts research on morphological changes of inhibitory neurons, which sounds very important.

Billed as the nation’s newest hub for the life sciences, a total of $74.5 million in federal funding is fueling the cutting-edge research among Scripps Florida, Max Planck Florida  and FAU’s Jupiter Life Science Initiative in Jupiter, Fla.

As J.D. “Jed” Clampett would say, “Welllllll, doggies!”

Now here comes the confession part, I actually had some fun in the sun. You see, there is this now rather famous thing called the Florida Grapefruit League, which is spring training for Major League Baseball.

And if you don’t like baseball, well, I just feel sorry for you. Bless your heart.

Barber Takes the Mound

In their wisdom, Enterprise Florida invited site selection consultants to come to spring training, watch some games, and talk business.

I was enjoying myself thoroughly until I learned on Day 2 that I was chosen to throw out the first pitch at a New York Mets-St. Louis Cardinals game in Port St. Lucie. I learned this about two hours before the game.

There would be about 10,000 fans in the stands, and I was supposed to throw a baseball, which I haven’t touched in years, over the plate without humiliating myself.

Somehow, some way, it actually happened. I delivered a high arching pitch without the catcher having to move, which was a tremendous relief to me. The crowd even cheered.

The scene was captured on a cell phone video, which I posted on Facebook. A longtime friend, upon seeing it, said: “You throw like an old fat man. But then again.”

He’s got a point. I’ll see you down the road.

Dean Barber is the president/CEO of Barber Business Advisors, LLC, a location advisory and economic development consulting firm based in Dallas. He can be reached at or at 972-890-3733.

  1. Dean- I always enjoy your work. This week is no exception.

    Charles L. Smith, CEcD
    Executive Director
    Main Line: 903-572-6602

  2. Thanks Charlie. I do hope all is well with you. Let me know if I can be of help.

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