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Enterprise Florida board approves staff cuts, cost reductions

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Enterprise Florida board members approved a plan to slash spending and restructure the state’s public-private economic development agency.

The EFI board of directors voted overwhelmingly to approve recommendations to cut about $6 million. The board approved about a dozen recommendations, including closing offices, ending contracts and eliminating 26 positions.

Eliminating the positions will save the organization more than $2.1 million, said Alan Becker, vice chair of the Enterprise Florida board. The group voted on the recommendation to eliminate the positions separately from other items; with board member Jason Steele voting against the measure.

The vote comes about five months after Gov. Rick Scott ordered a review of the economic development organization. The Naples Republican tapped David Wilkins, former head of the Department of Children and Families, to conduct an audit and help define the organization’s new role.

In May, Wilkins rolled out more than a dozen recommendations to streamline operations and cut costs. While Becker said Wilkins initially recommended cutting 27 positions totaling $2.7 million in savings, the agency ultimately identified 26 positions to be cut. Becker said the agency was able to make up the difference in other cost reductions.

“We identified the positions and the people,” he said. “There is a little flexibility of when those departures will occur and which ones will be eliminated, but those are already underway.”

According to the Naples Daily News, 11 positions are currently held by employees; three are executives and 12 are vacant.

The agency also has begun to reduce its footprint when it comes to office space. Becker said it plans to sublease “roughly half or a little more than half” of its Coral Gables office. The agency plans to sublease either half or all of its of Tallahassee office space.

The board also approved ending, or reducing, sponsorships, and terminating contracts. Becker said the agency is also preparing a proposal for the Legislature to move VISIT Florida and the Florida Sports Foundation to the Department of Economic Opportunity.

Sen. Nancy Detert, a Venice Republican and EFI board member, warned the board against moving VISIT Florida to the DEO.

“It would be a very heavy lift to move VISIT Florida to DEO while the DEO is still in a transition,” she said. “I think we need a little more conversation before we make the changes.”
The board accepted the recommendation, but Becker said there would be continued discussions about a possible move.

Scott ordered the audit in March, after the Legislature rejected his request for $250 million to help lure companies to Florida.

“We had another successful session,” said Scott on Friday. “But as we all know, the monies EFI was asking for were not met. We have to do something differently.”

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