The head of the Florida Chamber of Commerce Thursday defended the state’s handout of economic incentives, but said they were only ever meant to stoke job creation in a targeted way.
“In very, very limited cases, incentives are in play,” said Mark Wilson, the organization’s president and CEO. “We shouldn’t be using incentives for every job we create. In fact, they should rarely be used.”
Wilson and others, including dozens of former and current lawmakers, spoke at a press conference in the Capitol.
The organization rolled out its 2017 Competitiveness Agenda, “a blueprint of legislative priorities built on jobs, growth and opportunity for Florida families and small businesses.”
House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Americans for Prosperity-Florida, a free market advocacy organization, have inveighed against them as “corporate welfare.”
In questions and answers after the press conference, Wilson explained incentives are best used for targeted industries, such as advanced manufacturing and life sciences.
“When we can compete for those kinds of high-skill, high-wage jobs … in those very limited cases, incentives make sense,” he said. “Incentives and marketing dollars are incredibly important and when they’re used, they’re the difference maker.”
Corcoran has said, however, he expects requests for taxpayer-financed economic incentives to move through his chamber despite his personal objections to them.
This year, Gov. Rick Scott is requesting $85 million in incentives for a broad range of business deals to attract businesses to Florida.
The governor had last year proposed a “Florida Enterprise Fund” of $250 million for business incentives, a proposal that didn’t get funded in the 2016-17 state budget.