Orlando Sentinel, January 29, 2017
By Michael Joe Murphy, Digital Conversation Starter
By 2030, Florida will add 6 million more residents. Will Florida be ready with enough jobs, and the essentials of clean water, energy capacity and enough roads and bridges? As the Florida Chamber Foundation leads a two-year research program into Florida’s future, the Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board queried Carolyn Gosselin, the chief marketing and strategy officer of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, about what lies ahead.
Q: What led the Florida Chamber Foundation to launch its 2030 project?
A: Florida is changing. The world is changing. Florida needs to put the long term ahead of the short term, and the time to do that is now. The Florida Chamber Foundation’s Florida 2030 initiative aims to provide a step-by-step strategy to make Florida more globally competitive, create economic opportunity for all, and will lead to vibrant and sustainable communities.
In 1989, the Florida Chamber Foundation launched its first Cornerstone: Foundations for Economic Leadership report, which looked at how Florida could compete in a global and changing economy. This first report analyzed many of the issues we are still focused on today and actually provided the first path toward Florida’s Six Pillars framework. But more than that, this report highlighted a crucial insight: Florida’s potential is great, but its future is fragile.
Today, Florida is the third-most populous state in the nation. If Florida were a country, we would be the 16th largest economy in the world. More than 1,000 people move to Florida each day. Will Florida be prepared for 6 million more residents and the 2 million more jobs we will need by 2030?
Florida’s top thinkers and futurists have once again come together to address these challenges head-on and developed a long-term plan, a road map so to speak, for the issues our state must solve in order to be a leader in the global economy, not just today, but in 2030 and beyond. There are gaps that need to be addressed for future success. For instance, how can we grow the jobs of tomorrow (many of which don’t exist yet)? How can we ensure our students are being trained today for tomorrow’s challenges? And how can we become a global leader by leveraging the infrastructure, quality of life and business climate for which we are known?
Florida 2030, a two-year, multimillion dollar research initiative, will be next in our well-known Cornerstone report series and will build on the recommendations of the last Cornerstone report which, since its release, has helped to shape policy and put a long-term lens to Florida’s future.
Q: Whom did the foundation ask to participate in the project, and why? How did they offer their input?
A: The Florida Chamber Foundation is in the process of traveling to all 67 counties and holding interactive town hall meetings with business leaders and citizens who are providing their input regarding how Florida can prepare for the future. Each region of Florida has specific needs and challenges. Who best to identify them and suggest solutions than the leaders and job creators of each region? Diverse opinions are essential. In fact, any Floridian can share his or her opinion via our online survey at www.Florida2030.org.
Q: What challenges for Florida’s future were revealed in the project? Were there any that took you by surprise?
A: To date, we have already engaged nearly 5,000 Floridians. Everyone with whom we have met is overwhelmingly optimistic about the future of Florida in general. However, when leaders begin looking at their region’s global competitiveness, their region’s path toward economic prosperity, vibrancy and sustainability, concerns arise. Everyone is confident Florida will continue to work hard to create jobs and lead the nation. But the real question for 2030 is: Can we create jobs in any given county and region that contribute to Florida’s global competitiveness? People are optimistic in general, but frustrated at their perception that public officials don’t always focus on the long term.
Q: What are some of the ways that Florida can meet these challenges?
A: There’s always more than one solution, but in our experience, we have found that a united business community is the best catalyst to change. The business community is creating jobs that have placed Florida at the forefront of the nation, with our state creating one in every nine jobs in America. Aligning resources so businesses and entrepreneurs are speaking with one voice and working under one plan will ensure Florida continues to build on the Six Pillars that make our state competitive: creating a talented workforce, diversifying our economy and creating high-wage jobs, ensuring Florida’s infrastructure is prepared for smarter growth, keeping Florida’s business climate competitive and focused on free enterprise, keeping our government efficient and ensuring we create a quality of life that welcomes visitors and residents alike.
Q: Politics in Tallahassee, especially with term limits, seem to be skewed toward the short term. How can you persuade leaders to make policy for the long term?
A: Good question. Really good question. There is an appetite across Florida for looking long and focusing on the needed policy outcomes instead of the politics. Businesses — all citizens for that matter — aren’t planning their futures in two- or four-year increments. They are thinking long-term and, by rising above the political fray, we can get there. Florida is changing in many ways, and while that can be daunting, it’s actually a good thing as it causes us to think about what we want to be as a state, as a leader in our country and the world.
One new online tool that voters are beginning to discover is the same tool we use at the Florida Chamber Foundation and it can be found at www.TheFloridaScorecard.org. The scorecard measures everything from job creation to third-grade reading scores, from county-level high-school-graduation rates to poverty rates. When voters know the facts, our elected leaders will eventually focus on better outcomes because that’s what voters ultimately want from them.
We are going to be looking to our business and community leaders to help us take our message of long-term growth to the Capitol. The short-term fixes being addressed today are important, but if Florida is not focused on how we can do better 15, 20 or 50 years from now, we will fall into the trap of having to Band-Aid issues that arise.
Q: After completing this project, are you optimistic for Florida’s future?
The Florida Chamber Foundation has always been and will always be optimistic, and realistic, of Florida’s future. We have seen and measured our success. In fact, as I mentioned earlier, all 20 million Floridians can go right now to www.TheFloridaScorecard.org and see the numbers. Years ago, our education system was ranked near the bottom, just above Mississippi. Today, it is ranked one of the highest in the nation and we are graduating more students from high school and closing achievement gaps from early on in a child’s education. And, there are many more examples of success in infrastructure, economic development, innovation and more. So Florida has a positive foundation — a strong business climate that creates jobs, an ever improving educational system that is helping provide opportunities for all Floridians. But it’s important to not mistake that optimism for complacency. We must face our challenges head on and recognize them for what they are — opportunities for continuous improvement and success.