Recently, Enterprise Florida, Inc. (EFI) held its quarterly Board of Directors meeting in Tallahassee. Governor Rick Scott, who serves as chair of the Board, addressed the group and discussed the state’s improving business climate. The meeting also featured a presentation from the Team Florida Partnership and a success story from Bit-Wizards, a Fort Walton Beach IT and business consultancy company.
Secretary of Commerce and president & CEO of EFI, Gray Swoope, gave his final address to the Board as EFI president. Secretary Swoope announced his resignation last week. “Over the last four years, I have been privileged to work with an incredibly dedicated team at EFI, and we have had tremendous support from the Governor, Legislature, our Board and partners across the state,” said Swoope. “We have built great momentum and put Florida squarely on the map as a premier business state. I look forward to watching Florida’s continued growth toward becoming the number one job creation state in the nation.”
Senator Jack Latvala and Representative Clay Ingram attended the board meeting, and spoke about the upcoming legislative session and EFI’s role in economic development across the state.
Senator Latvala said, “Our state has come a long way in the years that I’ve been a Floridian, and it’s come a long way since I first came to the senate 20 years ago, but I think that what has happened in the last four years is particularly remarkable. What a wonderful leader [EFI has] in Gray Swoope. Universally, when I ask people about the effectiveness of EFI in this economic development resurgence in Florida, the answer is 100 percent positive.”
“The location and expansion of Navy Federal Credit Union in Pensacola has truly been transformative to our community,” said Representative Ingram. “At the end of 2014, Navy Federal announced that they were bringing 5,000 jobs to Pensacola. Enterprise Florida worked hard to bring this to fruition and I want to offer my thanks and support and recognize that this is just one of many projects that Enterprise Florida has been a part of bringing to the state.”
The meeting was the first to be led by new EFI Board vice-chair, Alan Becker. “Gray put together a great team and a great culture that will assure continued focus on and success in our mission,” said Becker. “Florida’s challenge and opportunity is to market our tremendous advantages as a place to do business. Our low tax structure, friendly business environment, outstanding workforce, and strategic location are not as well-known as our tourism industry and terrific weather. We will continue to aggressively market Florida’s business advantages throughout the country and around the world. We have had many high profile success stories with major companies choosing Florida. Such stories create greater visibility and, ultimately, more success.”
It was announced that Bill Johnson will replace Gray Swoope as Secretary of Commerce and EFI president & CEO. Bill currently serves as the director of the Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department and has previously served as the director of PortMiami. Johnson has served in a number of leadership roles in business, maritime and economic development organizations at the national and international levels. He will begin his role with EFI on March 1.
During the meeting, Fred Leonhardt, chair of the EFI Board’s legislative committee, gave a preview of the 2015 legislative agenda, goals for improving Florida’s business climate and the economic road ahead.
The Team Florida Partnership presented an update on its Perfect Climate for Business campaign. Over the past 18 months, the Team Florida Partnership, along with EFI, mounted a $1.4 million advertising campaign and associated events that resulted in more than 57 million impressions, allowing the partnership to have direct outreach to more than 2,300 business decision makers and influencers, and resulted in meetings with more than 120 site selection consultants.
During the board meeting, Vince Mayfield, Bit-Wizards CEO and co-founder, talked about the company’s growth and recent expansion. Bit-Wizards is an innovative IT and business consultancy company headquartered in Fort Walton Beach.
Mayfield said, “I want to thank the Governor and Legislature for making Florida a state where businesses can flourish. We plugged in with our local economic development council and our local chamber, and continue to work on our company and grow it. We really wanted to stay here in Florida – we love the quality of life and the lower cost of living – and so we decided to stay here. And with that we started a $1 million expansion, as well as increasing our sales force. Now we are working to create 20 new jobs in the area.”
The next EFI board meeting will be held May 28 in Tampa. EFI’s board meetings are open to the public, with provision for public comment, and are televised live by the Florida Channel. In addition, the Board of Directors section of EFI’s newsroom includes agendas, committee meeting materials, fact sheets and other resources.