Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Rick Scott orders probes into Visit Florida, Space Florida

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

Gov. Rick Scott has ordered examinations into Visit Florida and Space Florida, two high-profile public-private partnerships with the state government, according to the Orlando Sentinel’s Gray Rohrer.

The purpose of the reviews is to determine the level of return on investment Florida taxpayers get in exchange for funding projects through the entities, which don’t have the same broad open-government laws by which purely public agencies must abide.

The move comes amid scrutiny of both ventures, instigated most recently by the Sentinel, which has called into question the efficacy of the spending and secrecy of both groups, which are set to take in a combined $97.5 million in taxpayer dollars over the next fiscal year.

Another similar partnership, Enterprise Florida, has also been under the microscope in recent days.

After an organizational shake-up which saw CEO Bill Johnson exit after just over a year on the job, Scott ordered the former head of another agency David Wilkins to conduct an audit and come up with $6 million in cuts.

All three groups have seen growth under Scott, who favors a private sector-esque approach to government. Lawmakers rebuffed his request for $250 million Enterprise Fund to aid Enterprise Florida’s jobs-recruitment efforts despite heavy lobbying by the Scott administration.

Johnson will “phase out” of his role at the top of the Enterprise Florida over time before. His raised the stakes in the government’s battle with lawmakers with controversial comments in 2015 to the effect that if lawmakers don’t increase cash influxes to the group, “there’s no need to have an EFI,” referring to the entity’s full name, Enterprise Florida, Inc.

“We’re either going to be competitive, we’re going to be in the game, or not,” said Johnson in 2015, arguing for dollars for a “governor’s closing fund” to help sweeten deals with businesses considering relocating to Florida.

Those remarks were echoed in a memo from Scott earlier this month, after lawmakers refused to appropriate the $250 million Enterprise Fund line-item.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the loss of our competitive incentive program will forever change the face of economic development in our state,” wrote Scott.

“While we cannot expect to win competitive projects under which cities compete for jobs as a result of corporate and regional office relocations and plant expansions and relocations, we can promote our low tax environment, our low regulatory environment, our results-based education system, our investments in our ports, our 44 year low crime rate, and our geographic location,” the memo reads.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at

Latest from Statewide

Go to Top