- A proposed bill to dissolve Enterprise Florida and transfer its functions to the Department of Economic Opportunity is raising concerns among lawmakers.
- The bill aims to streamline the state’s economic development system and eliminate certain programs, including the Florida Small Business Technology Program, Microfinance programs, and the Office of Film and Entertainment.
- Apprehensions regarding the elimination of several programs within Enterprise Florida were expressed, with some lawmakers reluctant to support the measure without additional return on investment data.
- Committee members sought further insights as to why some programs would be dissolved.
The Florida House Committee on Commerce raised concerns on Friday over a proposed bill that seeks to dissolve Enterprise Florida and transfer its functions to the Department of Economic Opportunity. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Tiffany Esposito, aims to streamline the state’s economic development system and eliminate certain programs and incentives such as the Florida Small Business Technology Program, Microfinance programs, and the Office of Film and Entertainment, among others.
Though committee members largely expressed support for Esposito’s bill, voting favorably on the legislation, apprehensions reared regarding the elimination of several programs within Enterprise Florida, including the Florida Small Business Development Network — a state and federally-funded organization that provides free consulting, training, and resources to help small businesses start. Esposito asserted, however, that due to the organization’s standing as an advisory council, it does not need to be enshrined in statute.
“The Small Business Development Network does not need permission to meet,” said Esposito. “It’s an advisory council, and they don’t need to be in statute. The small business development center itself is not going to be affected by this bill.”
Members of the committee also sought insight as to why the Urban High-Crime Area Job Tax Credit Program, which serves as a tax incentive program that encourages businesses to create new jobs in urban areas with high crime rates, would also be dissolved. In explanation, Esposito stated that the program, alongside the other twenty-three initiatives being rolled back, does not meet the state’s expectations on value.
“Looking at the investment that the state and the taxpayers are putting into the program, it’s not giving the return on investment that was originally intended or expected,” said Esposito.
Moreover, Esposito highlighted that another targeted program, the entertainment industry sales tax exemptions, falls below the state’s desired return, with the return on investment registered at fifty-eight cents for each dollar put into the program.
A Proposed Committee Bill introduced by Rep. Tyler Sirois yesterday in relation to the bill would separate Space Florida from Enterprise Florida, establish new criteria for membership and appointment to its Board of Directors, and implement term lengths.
Sirois stated that the existing board structure, formulated in 2006, was tailored to the requirements of the Space Shuttle program, which ended in 2011. He claimed that the proposed changes would enable Space Florida to better serve the evolving needs of the modern aerospace sector and foster the development of emerging technologies and commercial space ventures.
“We now have a very robust and growing commercial space presence in Florida,” said Sirois. “What we want to do is look at the Board as an opportunity to create a nexus between all of these different operators in commercial aerospace.”
The legislation picked up support from several business-oriented associations, including American for Prosperity – Florida, who referred to Enterprise Florida as “corporate welfare,” and “a waste of taxpayer dollars.”
“We are promoting this legislation as good stewardship of our tax dollars,” said Chris Stranburg, Legislative Director for the group. “By streamlining the department and Enterprise Florida, this bill makes sure our government is more effective in working for the citizens of Florida.”
The Florida Chamber of Commerce also appeared, voicing a desire to be involved in the process of shaping economic development strategy in Florida.
“Whether there’s economic development for Enterprise Florida or through the Department of Economic Opportunity, the Florida Chamber stands ready to be a part of the conversation and help shape our economic development programs going forward,” said Carolyn Johnson, Director of Business, Economic Development and Innovation Policy for the Florida Chamber.
Senate President Kathleen Passidomo lent support to HB5’s effort to shutter Enterprise Florida last week, suggesting that aspects of the agency could be folded into the Department of Economic Opportunity, such as trade missions, but that the public-private agency overall “just doesn’t seem to be as effective as we would like.”
Further, House Speaker Paul Renner told reporters last week that people and businesses have come to the state without needing incentives from EPI. He said that the $13 million provided this year to the agency could be better used in other ways.