Major changes could be coming to Enterprise Florida.
A review of the state’s public-private economic development agency found it could save $6 million through a series of cuts, including slashing 27 positions and reducing operating.
Gov. Rick Scott in March ordered a review of the state’s public-private economic development organization. The Naples Republican tapped David Wilkins, the former head of the Department of Children and Families, to conduct the audit and work with the organization to define its new role.
“The bottom line is: EFI is the best. We are the best in the nation,” said Wilkins during the Enterprise Florida Board of Directors meeting in Naples on Wednesday. “When you talk about the monies that have been invested in this program and the return, it’s actually one of the best investments in state dollars that exist in this state.”
But as Wilkins pointed out, the organization hasn’t evolved much in the 20 years since Enterprise Florida was first created.
“None of you who run businesses, if you look back 20 years, are running the same organization you ran 20 years ago,” said Wilkins. “You evolved it yearly, quarterly, and those evolutions are good. And you should never be afraid to, in essence, tweak the model and improve what we’re doing.”
Wilkins outlined more than a dozen recommendations, including changes to staffing levels. During its June meeting, Wilkins said the Board of Directors should consider eliminating 27 full-time equivalent positions. These posts would be spread across the agency, and the cuts save the agency $2.75 million.
However, among the top priorities, Wilkins recommended Enterprise Florida consolidate and reorganize its operations. That reorganization would, in part, a larger focus on business development, which Wilkins said should be the core priority for Enterprise Florida.
The review also found the organization could find savings by subleasing two of its three offices. Wilkins recommended the state sublease its office suite in Miami, which had been used as CEO Bill Johnson’s office. Johnson is stepping down effective June 24.
He also suggested subletting the entire Tallahassee office. Under Wilkins proposal, employees who would remain part of the Tallahassee operation would be relocated to office space at the Department of Economic Opportunity.
Wilkins said Enterprise Florida should prepare a legislative proposal to shift VISIT Florida, the Florida Sports Foundation, and the Minority and Small Business Program to the Department of Economic Opportunity. His recommendations also included shifting the management of the State Small Business Credit Initiative to the DEO.
As for the main offices in Orlando, Wilkins said the organization should move to new premises when the lease on those offices expire in 2018.
Another way to find immediate savings, Wilkins said would be by adopting the state’s policy when it comes to mileage, per diem and hotel usage. Wilkins estimated that change, combined with better planning when it comes to conference attendance and expenses, could save the agency $150,000 a year.
Scott, who serves as chair of the Enterprise Florida Board of Directors, ordered the review of the agency in March, after the Legislature rejected his request for $250 million to lure companies to Florida.
“I think with any organization it’s important to go back through and think about what you’re doing,” said Scott on Wednesday. “Things change. Opportunities changes. I think this is a good start to having a conversation about where EFI goes forward, and where do we get the biggest bang for our buck.”