DEO’s Ken Lawson Shares Importance of Investing in VISIT FLORIDA, the QTI Program, and Communities Impacted by Hurricanes

With the Florida Legislature currently putting finishing touches on Florida’s next state budget, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity CEO Ken Lawson tells the Florida Chamber’s Bottom Line that Floridians enjoy a friendly tax climate because of Florida’s visitors contributing to the economy.

“By virtue of tourism, we’re not paying a state income tax. Out-of-state tourists are investing in Florida, spending money across the state, that means that’s increasing our tax base. So, it’s very important that VISIT FLORIDA is funded to help market the state across the country and the world.”

-Director Ken Lawson
CEO, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity

Director Lawson, Florida’s top economic development leader, also shared the importance of not letting the Qualified Targeted Industries (QTI) program sunset.

“QTI is a great tool for small, medium and large communities across Florida. This tool causes companies to create jobs in aerospace, finance and diversified areas,” he explained about the program that allows job creators who invest in their business, create jobs and pay their taxes, to seek tax refunds based on their investment.

Director Lawson also highlights how DEO is playing a vital role in helping with long-term hurricane disaster recovery.

“Under Governor DeSantis’s leadership, DEO is fully committed to long-term disaster recovery, ensuring they put funds out across the State of Florida,” Lawson said. “With Hurricane Irma, we awarded $300 million so far, with Hurricane Michael we are working on our state action plan.”

Call, Text, Email Your Lawmaker

Florida’s businesses need your support. Reach out to your lawmakers and encourage them to support continuing Florida’s QTI program and VISIT FLORIDA. Find your Representative HERE. Find your Senator HERE.

The Florida Chamber also has a goal for every community to have resiliency plans in times of natural disaster. Tell us HERE about your community’s resiliency plan.

New Proposed Rule on Florida R&D Tax Credit

Yesterday, the Florida Department of Revenue announced proposed changes to the rule implementing the Florida R&D Tax Credit. If written notice is received, a rulemaking workshop will be held on November 22, 2016. The proposed changes to the rule include the following:

  • Addresses the process if the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) denies to certify a company as being in a targeted industry and the company protests.
  • Removes the requirement that the Florida Department of Revenue (DOR) notify companies of their allocation within 10-working days.
  • Specifies that if DOR audits the company and finds the R&D credits were overstated on the application, the Department will proportionately reduce the credit allowed. If DOR audits the company and finds the R&D credits were understated on the application, the company receives no additional credit (due to the capped allocation).
  • Specifies that the credits are not transferrable unless the whole business is sold in a single transaction.


CLICK HERE to find additional information on these proposed changes and the rulemaking notice.


In 2015, the Florida Chamber of Commerce was instrumental in working with the Florida Legislature to improve the R&D Tax Credit program. Prior to these changes, companies applied on a first-come, first-serve basis and the cap on tax credits was met in minutes. Now, companies have a week-long period to apply, and if the cap is exceeded, each qualified company receives a pro-rated portion of their eligible tax credits.

The Florida Chamber also fought to increase the cap the last two years, and was successful in an increase to $23 million in available credits for the 2015 tax year. 118 applications were approved for 2015, compared to 23 applications the prior year. Each company received approximately half of the amount requested. The cap is $9 million for the 2016 tax year.

We will continue to fight to increase available credits to companies performing R&D in our state. To join us, please contact Carolyn Johnson.

Future Workforce Needs To Remain a Florida Focus

Earlier this week, I spoke to the Florida State Board of Education Workforce Workshop on Florida’s workforce trends, and current and future job demand. Joined by representatives from Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity as well as CareerSource Florida, I used to show what metrics Florida’s business leaders are tracking at the state and county levels.

By 2030, Florida will need two million net new jobs. Will our state be ready to fill those jobs? According to data shown on, high school graduation rates, college affordability and educational attainment are improving, but are they improving fast enough to meet the growing needs of Florida businesses?

For a county-by-county view of how your community is performing, check out and let us know what you think and share your ideas on how we can improve Florida’s talent pipeline.

Learn More:

Watch our recently released Florida Wins education video that shows how we can help turn today’s learners, into tomorrow’s earners.

Exclusive Unemployment Comp Update From DEO Director Jesse Panuccio

Skim any newspaper these days and you’re likely to find a story about identity theft.  Some of the breaches are massive in scope: 83 million identities from JP Morgan, 80 million from Anthem Healthcare, 70 million from Target, and 24 million from the federal Office Personnel Management.  Why has this crime become so prevalent?  First, because it’s easy: in our digitized age, our personal information is everywhere, and it’s not very well protected.  Second, the crime is profitable: stolen identifies can be used to open credit card accounts, drain checking accounts, take out loans, purchase medical care, and steal tax refunds and public benefits like unemployment insurance.

Make no mistake about it: Data breaches and the resulting fraud have reached crisis levels. Organized criminal enterprises are, on a vast scale, using stolen identities to defraud public benefits systems.  The negative effects of this crisis are stark: It harms those whose identities are stolen, it robs the social safety net of limited resources, it imposes unwarranted costs on taxpayers, and it undermines public confidence in government.

The Department of Economic Opportunity, which administers unemployment insurance in Florida, takes these crimes very seriously, and we have made fighting fraud a top priority.  While technology makes public-benefits fraud easier, the good news is that it also provides new tools for fighting such fraud.  In early 2014, DEO developed and implemented a digital system that analyzes unemployment-claims data and detects patterns of fraud. The results are revealing. In just eighteen months, we’ve identified more than 110,000 fraudulent claims, representing $470 million in potential benefits. (In 2014, Florida paid a total of $840 million in unemployment benefits.)

The taxpayers of Florida, and across the nation, need to know that only those who legitimately deserve public benefits are receiving them.  DEO can’t do this alone, but we are dedicated to working with our partners in this state and across the country to safeguard all of the hardworking Floridians who bear the burden of public-benefits fraud.

Authored by Director Jesse Panuccio, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity

Get Involved:

Contact Carolyn Johnson at to share your business story.