Gov. DeSantis’s Legislative Director Gives Insights on Enterprise Florida, Legal Reform & VISIT FLORIDA

When Governor Ron DeSantis outlined his 2020 legislative priorities during his annual State of the State speech just five weeks ago, he encouraged lawmakers to continue improving on Florida’s bottom five legal environment by passing meaning lawsuit abuse reforms.

On the latest edition of the Florida Chamber’s Bottom Line, Stephanie Kopelousos, Legislative Affairs Director for Governor Ron DeSantis explains why it’s important to improve on Florida’s bottom five legal climate.

“I think you see legislation this session that are going through that I think will make a difference. But the Governor’s made it a clear priority, just look at how many judicial appointments he’s made in really trying to get us from the bottom – we are at the bottom – in making that climate better for Floridians,” Kopelousos says.

Additionally, with a budget battle brewing between the House and Senate, Kopelousos explains why it’s important for the legislature to invest, as Governor DeSantis has recommended, in Florida’s tourism marketing and economic development programs by funding VISIT FLORIDA and Enterprise Florida, Inc.

Diversifying Florida’s Economy


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Why It Matters to Florida

Diversifying Florida’s economy is key to creating jobs and opportunities. To do so, the Florida Chamber will continue to build our core industries, tourism, agriculture, and construction while diversifying Florida’s economy into next generation targeted industries. We must continue to attract growing and innovative industries and new technologies that will allow Florida to lead the way in high-skill, high-wage job creation. Florida wins when we continue to diversify our base of job creators and work to attract and grow targeted high-wage industries.

Florida’s Competitiveness Agenda

  • Diversifying Our Economy and Creating Jobs through Economic Development
    The Florida Chamber supports the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund and other improvements to EFI, which will ensure we continue to diversify and improve Florida’s business climate by investing in workforce development and infrastructure.
  • Championing Rural Business Opportunities
    In order to double the rural county share of Florida gross domestic product by 2030, Florida must continue to provide resources and assistance to Rural Areas of Opportunity and other rural counties and continue to advance economic development opportunities.
  • Fostering Innovation by Growing Targeted Industries
    The Florida Chamber supports projects that will diversify Florida’s economy and attract businesses through innovations in technology, research, and development and public-private partnerships.

The Fight for Free Enterprise Continues

Florida continues to move in the right direction by growing private-sector jobs, expanding new industries and strengthening international trade and logistics relationships. But our work is far from over. The Florida Chamber believes a globally competitive business climate helps businesses and families succeed.

Act Now

When we stay the course of creating a diverse and globally competitive economy, Florida wins. Join our fight to secure Florida’s future.

Florida Chamber Series on Free Enterprise: Quint Studer


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Pensacola Business Leader Quint Studer: Economic Development Is Key

In the latest edition of the Florida Chamber’s Series on Free Enterprise, Quint Studer, Founder of Studer Family of Companies and Pensacola businessman, shares why economic development is vital for growing Florida’s small businesses.

“I think economic development really creates a quality of life that attracts people to your area. We’re living in the first history where the generation of people move for location and then look for a job,” Studer said. “If we can keep growing small businesses, I think that’s really the key. I come back to making sure that we either have the talent available to move into this area, because they want to live in Florida, or until we develop them.”




Click Below to Listen to Quint Studer


Help Diversify Florida’s Economy

Growing and diversifying Florida’s economy is essential to creating jobs and opportunities for all Floridians. Sign the petition today to help signal that Florida is open for business and ready for economic development.

Quint Studer is Helping Lead Pensacola’s Turnaround


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Authored by: Quint Studer, Studer Family of Companies

The Cambridge Dictionary defines economic development as, “the process in which an economy grows or changes and becomes more advanced, especially when both economic and social conditions are improved.” This is what Quint Studer, Florida Chamber Board of Governors member and founder of the Studer Community Institute, is doing in Pensacola.

Prior to its recent revitalization, entrepreneur, investor and author Quint Studer described Pensacola’s state as a “death spiral.” Today, everything has changed.

Mr. Studer and community leaders engaged residents and business owners to help create a vibrant community. With the help of the Studer Community Institute, progress on important economic and social goals was tracked via the Dashboard. The community began a series of civic conversations, called “CivicCon,” which the Studer Community Institute also helped host.

The business community was instrumental in Pensacola’s success. They galvanized as a group and focused on economic development.  They participated in leadership training, monthly round tables and mentored new entrepreneurs. They came together to learn (and teach) the skills businesses needed to thrive long term.

The result? Downtown Pensacola is thriving and new businesses are popping up everywhere. There is more downtown construction taking place in Pensacola than at any time in modern history. Many new stores, restaurants, and other businesses have opened up downtown. There’s a new baseball stadium on the waterfront, and since 2012 the Double-A team the Blue Wahoos (partially owned by Quint Studer) have drawn more than 300,000 fans per year to Pensacola.

Also, property values are soaring: In the past five years, the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) went from an assessed property value of $675 million to $850 million, which equates to 25.9 percent growth. Finally, there are projects worth $100 million being built right now that don’t count toward this total.

Outsiders have taken notice, too. Pensacola was named the 2017 Great Places of Florida People’s Choice Winner, following a poll administered by the American Planning Association of Florida. And this year National Geographic Traveler magazine named Pensacola in a story celebrating urban renewal, great main streets, and smart development policies.

Quint Studer wants other communities to experience the success that has happened in Pensacola. That’s why he is sharing the story in his latest book: Building a Vibrant Community, which is set for an April 2018 release. Thanks to visionary leaders like Quint Studer, Pensacola’s future is bright.


Help Florida’s Economy Continue to Grow

Growing and diversifying Florida’s economy is essential to creating jobs and opportunities for Floridians. Sign the petition today and help us continue to signal that Florida is open for business and ready for economic development.

Weyerhaeuser Wants Better Economic Development in Florida


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For more than 100 years, Weyerhaeuser has worked to become the world’s premier timber, land and forest products company. Following that road has led them to become a significant presence in economic development in Florida and in the United States.

Rosemary Fagler, Manager of Economic Development with Weyerhaeuser, markets development properties ranging from residential to industrial across the company’s portfolio. She said Florida needs to improve its ability to attract new businesses through incentives.

“You have to want to be in Florida in order to come to Florida. It is not a state that knows how to recruit the larger companies here if they are competing against other states or other countries,” Fagler said. “If you’ve got a company that is coming to the state of Florida, it needs to be here for one reason or another. Its customer base is here, it has a supplier that is here or maybe they want to take advantage of the ports.”

Fagler said compared to other states, Florida is behind in terms of economic development because it doesn’t maximize the amenities that it offers. She listed Florida’s 14 deep-water ports, rail infrastructure, roadway infrastructure and lack of state income tax as potential sellers to businesses considering relocating to Florida.

“You think about the access that our state provides and yet we’re not utilizing the ability to capitalize on our rural proximity to urban and our rural proximity to amazing infrastructure. We’re just not leveraging that like other states are,” Fagler said. “It’s a shame because Florida, just by its shape, its climate, its rate of growth and all of the infrastructure that it has, should be leading in economic development as well as exporting.”

Weyerhaeuser has two projects underway in Florida, the North Florida Mega Industrial Park in Lake City and Hawthorne Industry Park in Hawthorne. These projects will create economic opportunity for the residents of the two cities and its surrounding areas.

“We have a heart for rural economic development. Part of that is because we are the largest private landowner in the world, so we own a lot of rural [properties]. We have 13 million acres in 20 states,” Fagler said. “A lot of times, rural communities don’t have an opportunity to participate in economic development because a large portion of their community is in agriculture.”

According to Weyerhaeuser, the 500-acre core of the Lake City site is designated as a 14-county catalyst site and is certified as a CSX Select Site. From both locations, a company can access Interstates 10 and 75, and all of Florida’s 14 deep-water ports. CSX’s main north/south freight line through Florida borders the eastern portion of the Hawthorne site. The site is also bordered by U.S. 301 which is Florida’s internal highway connecting Jacksonville to Tampa.

“I’m excited that the state is focusing on the attention that rural Florida needs,” Fagler said. “There has been so much investment into our ports and in order to get a return on investment, you need to have major employers that are willing to produce something that will be exported out of those ports and not just use those ports as an import.”

Since 2010, Florida has created more than 1.4 million private sector jobs and 1 in every 10 jobs in the U.S. In 2018, the Florida Chamber’s Chief Economist, Dr. Jerry Parrish, predicts Florida will become a $1 trillion economy. While Florida has an economic outlook with much to look forward to, the fact is that several states and nations are targeting the same high-wage industries. We must continue to signal that Florida is open for business and ready for economic development.

“I think we are at a crossroad in Florida. Our state is growing. You look at that and people are coming here right now because they like the Florida lifestyle,” Fagler said. “If we can’t take advantage of who we are as a state and the international access that we have and then diversify that employment base, then we are going to be a service-based state. A service-based state won’t be able to survive.”


Help Florida’s Economy Continue to Grow

Growing and diversifying Florida’s economy is essential to creating jobs and opportunities for Floridians. Sign the petition today and help us continue to signal that Florida is open for business and ready for economic development.

Ocala Marion County Chamber on Economic Development


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Authored by: Kevin T. Sheilley, President/CEO of the Ocala-Marion County Chamber & Economic Partnership

Jobs. Investment. Wages. Taxes. Entrepreneurship. Incentives. Construction. All of these terms have been used to define economic development. Depending on where one lives, all could be right, some could be right, or none could be correct. Defining economic development is different for every one of Florida’s 67 counties. While defining economic development is hard, knowing who is responsible is pretty easy.

At its heart, economic development is the ultimate local issue. What is an appropriate and goal-worthy definition of economic development for Ocala (my home) will be very different than the definition in Miami which will be equally different from Pensacola’s definition. Even more important than the definition is the implementation. Whatever your definition, how are you going to practice economic development? Again, this is really a local issue but one in which the state and federal governments play a tremendous part.

Think about the most recent economic development announcements you have seen. In those announcements, were the companies selecting a state or a community? I can almost guarantee that the press release states the company was selecting a community. In fact, when I looked at the three most recent announcements on Enterprise Florida’s website, all three announced companies selecting a community (Lockheed Martin in Orlando, Virgin Voyages in Broward County, and Allegiant Airline in Fort Walton Beach). Even the much ballyhooed Amazon HQ2 coverage has been about which cities (not states) are still in the running.

Economic development happens on the local level. The work of chambers/EDCs and local officials (elected and appointed) are where economic development occurs. At the end of the day, companies are choosing and investing in buildings and land in specific cities with specific workforces. The local business climate plays a vital role in this process and that climate needs to reflect the community’s definition and goals of economic development.  How a community wants to grow (or not grow) should be reflected in the community’s approach to taxation, zoning, infrastructure investment, workforce development, etc. and no one is better suited to make these decisions than those who live in the community.

As much as economic development is driven on and about local communities, the state plays an incredibly important role. Many tax and regulatory issues are state issues and impact the ability of communities to attract and/or sustain the types of economic development they desire. State policies and approaches can significantly impact (positively or negatively) the ability of a community reach its goals. A negative comment or approach by a state leader can and will color every community in a negative light.

Whatever your definition of economic development, know that the competition is fierce. There are over 3,000 economic development organizations in the US working to attract investment, jobs, and talent to their communities. While all of our communities want and need the support of our state government and elected officials, if your community is not charting and pursuing your own course it will be a struggle. When a company invests in your community, whether it is an attraction project, an expansion, or an entrepreneur, no one benefits more than the local community and at the end of the day no one is more responsible than the local community.


Kevin T. Sheilley is the President/CEO of the Ocala-Marion County Chamber & Economic Partnership, the community’s primary chamber and economic development organization. He has spoken across the country on issues relating to economic and community development and organizations he has led have won numerous awards including the national Excellence in Economic Development Award from the US Department of Commerce and ACCE’s National Chamber of the Year finalist. Prior to coming to Ocala, Kevin had worked in economic development in Kentucky and Tennessee. The CEP represents the fourth time he has successfully assisted communities in merging/creating new economic development entities.


Help Florida’s Economy Continue to Grow

Growing and diversifying Florida’s economy is essential to creating jobs and opportunities for Floridians. Sign the petition today and help us continue to signal that Florida is open for business and ready for economic development.

Florida Chamber Series on Free Enterprise: Dr. Jackson Sasser


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Dr. Jackson Sasser, President of Santa Fe College, and Florida Chamber of Commerce North Central Florida Regional Board Chair, talks about economic development in the latest installation of the Florida Chamber’s Series on Free Enterprise.


“If a person does not have a job that sustains life for them and their family, then they are lacking a fundamental right as an American,” Dr. Sasser said. ”These colleges and universities must prepare students for what the need is. When a new industry comes to town, be ready within six weeks to put a program on the ground that meets the need of business and industry.”

Click Below to Listen to Dr. Jackson Sasser


Help Secure Florida’s Future

Learn more about diversifying Florida’s economy by downloading our Economic Development one-pager here.

Infrastructure and Tourism Funding Key to Florida’s Competitiveness


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Representative Clay Ingram (R-Pensacola) discusses how infrastructure and tourism investments effect Florida’s economic development, on the latest edition of the Florida Chamber’s Bottom Line public affairs program.

With the third year of funding for the Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT) five-year plan underway, Representative Ingram believes the FDOT and its many projects are running smoothly.

“The plan as of now, at least from the House, is to fund that work program at the full level once again. The FDOT does such a wonderful job. They do a very good job of making sure projects are run well and run on time,” Representative Ingram said.

And when it comes to renewing VISIT FLORIDA’s $76 million budget, Representative Ingram believes it’s a program that benefits Florida.

“We had a report come out and it showed the return on investment that VISIT FLORIDA brings back to the state. Obviously, it is one of the highest returns on investment of any of the economic development programs that we fund,” Representative Ingram said.


Help Secure Florida’s Future

Learn more about diversifying Florida’s economy by downloading our Economic Development one-pager here.

Global Florida Webinar: Economic Development and Supply Chain Innovation


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Florida Chamber Global Florida Webinar
Economic Development and Supply Chain Innovation
Tuesday, March 6, 2018
3:00 – 4:00 p.m.


Trade, Transportation, Logistics and Distribution are big businesses in Florida. Since 2010, the state has made strategic and transformative investments in our logistics and transportation infrastructure – a key recommendation of the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Trade and Logistics Study 1.0.

These investments have positioned Florida as a global hub for trade and investment. But we face competition and the industry is changing.

New technologies are presenting promising opportunities that could transform the industry. Technologies like blockchain allow for more transparency, security and efficiency across the entire supply chain, and deliver a higher value to consumers. With significant players beginning to implement blockchain technologies, how can Florida continue to leverage its infrastructure assets and adapt to continue attracting investment as well as grow international trade?

Join the Florida Chamber of Commerce for our next Global Florida webinar on Tuesday, March 6 at 3:00 p.m. The discussion will focus on Florida’s economic development story. We will hear from Michael G. Morgan, Partner at McDermott Will & Emery, who will discuss blockchain technology and the future of logistics and supply chain.


Drive the Discussion

Do you have specific information you would like covered during this webinar? Send your suggestions to Dan Tapia at


Get Involved

Get connected to global opportunities by becoming a member of the Florida Chamber’s International Program. Contact me at or (850) 521-1206.


Special Thanks to Our Partners

Senate Committee Passes Rural Development Bill

The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee passed a bill today that champions rural business opportunities by providing additional resources for rural economic development.

SB 1646, sponsored by Senator Bill Montford would increase funding and decrease matching requirements for Rural Areas of Opportunity to use for economic development.  Additionally, the bill allows the Rural Infrastructure Fund to be used for access and availability of broadband internet.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce has long supported Florida’s rural communities, and in particular, believes diversifying Florida’s economy will help grow jobs and economic growth in underserved communities.

This bill will next be heard in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development.

Get Involved

Learn more about diversifying Florida’s economy by downloading our Economic Development one-pager today.

OPEN FOR BUSINESS: Florida Legislature Votes to Enhance Florida’s Competitiveness


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Thanks to your tireless advocacy, the Florida Legislature today voted to make Florida more competitive and sent a strong signal nationwide that Florida remains open for business.

Prior to the start of this week’s Special Session, Florida Chamber President and CEO Mark Wilson urged legislative leaders to fully fund VISIT FLORIDA’s proven, high-yield tourism marketing efforts with at least $76 million, to provide operational funding for Enterprise Florida, Inc., and to invest at least $85 million in targeted economic development efforts such as infrastructure investment and job training.


“Florida’s taxpayers were the big winners of Special Session. By passing Florida Chamber-backed pro-jobs, pro-business legislation, lawmakers today made the most of their opportunity to protect and enhance Florida’s competitiveness, and sent a signal to the country that Florida remains open for business. Lawmaking isn’t always pretty, but just as business owners focus on achieving desired outcomes, not inputs, the outcome here was worth the wait,” said Frank Walker, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Florida Chamber.


Legislation Passed on June 9 Includes:

  • Economic Development: Creates and funds at $85 million the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund program for targeted economic development investments, and provides base operation funding necessary for Enterprise Florida, Inc. to continue their work creating jobs and diversifying our economy,
  • Tourism Marketing: Allocates $76 million to fully fund VISIT FLORIDA’s proven tourism marketing efforts with necessary accountability to taxpayers,
  • Drug Free Workplace: Includes Florida Chamber-backed language in the medical marijuana implementation bill preserving employers’ right to insist on a Drug Free Workplace,
  • Education: Increases public education funding by $215 million, and
  • Herbert Hoover Dike: Provides $50 million for overdue repair of the dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee to enhance water storage and quality.

For a more in-depth look at legislation passed during this week’s Special Legislative Session, as well as a reminder of Florida Chamber-backed legislation that passed during the Regular Legislative Session, click here.

The Florida Chamber looks forward to future opportunities to work with lawmakers to stomp out the ‘Homeowners Fraud Tax’ associated with Assignment of Benefit fraud and abuse, to lower workers’ comp rates facing employers, and continued efforts to fully repeal the Florida-only business rent tax.

Economic Development Matters to Florida’s Future



The Florida Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Economic Development Task Force Report

For more than 100 years, the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s mission has been to lead Florida to a new and sustainable economy. Through our diverse membership of business leaders across Florida, the Florida Chamber has been at the forefront of solving issues that impact the competitiveness and future of Florida’s business climate.

The Florida Chamber’s 2017 Economic Development Task Force Report is the result of over nine months of work by the Florida Chamber’s Economic Development Task Force, during which they heard from more than 1,000 voices, engaged more than 30 experts (site selectors and economic development professionals) and compiled more than 250 comments and recommendations on how to make Florida more competitive. This report outlines steps the Florida Legislature can take now to ensure a stronger business climate.

Until the Florida Legislature makes Florida the most competitive business climate in the world, the state’s economic future will remain fragile because everything we know about Florida is changing — our politics, our demographics and our economics. To secure Florida’s future, Florida’s job creators need to create two million new jobs by 2030. We must accelerate the diversification of our economy and make Florida more competitive — not only with neighboring states, but also globally. And while elected officials do not create jobs, they do create the conditions for businesses to create jobs with both short- and long-term actions.

If you believe in creating jobs to secure Florida’s future, please support the Florida Chamber by adopting the recommendations contained in this report and make sure the right things continue to happen in Florida by encouraging your legislator to act now.

Take Action Now

The Florida Chamber believes a globally competitive business climate helps businesses and families succeed. To learn more about our fight to secure Florida’s future, contact me at or (850) 521-1235.

Negative Signals From Florida Legislature Contribute to Slump in Job Numbers

Headlines across Florida are highlighting the strong private-sector jobs created in January. It’s true, January was a banner month for jobs with 51,000 new jobs added in Florida. Unfortunately, that’s where the good news turns to concern. That’s because brand new U.S. labor statistics show Florida created fewer jobs in 2016 than in 2015 – 60,800 private sector jobs fewer to be precise.  And, if Florida leaders aren’t careful, this may be just the beginning of a downward trend.

For more than a year, some in the Florida Legislature have been sending negative signals to businesses that Florida isn’t as interested in growing jobs and businesses as it once was. And just a few weeks ago, 87 members of the Florida House voted to eliminate two dozen of Florida’s targeted and proven economic development programs.

Florida has advantages, however, we also have a major lawsuit abuse problem, we’re the only state that taxes small business rent, and our unfunded pensions cost eight times what we invest in economic development. The point is that until Florida’s Republican led legislature puts jobs and families first, now is the worst possible time to send signals that our legislature doesn’t care about Florida’s competitiveness. Taking economic development strategies that work off the table is short sighted and, without question, damages Florida’s ability to continue to lead the nation in job creation, particularly for small businesses who create most of the new jobs.

If Florida could compete on its sunshine-soaked beaches and current lack of personal income tax alone, our state would forever win. But the fact is, our competitors aren’t giving up these important economic development tools anytime soon. Our legislature should be making Florida more competitive, not eliminating job creation tools.

So while some in the legislature have turned their back on job creation, and are signaling to the rest of the nation that we’re not interested in their high-wage jobs, the Florida Chamber of Commerce isn’t giving up. We’ll keep fighting for jobs that support our families and Florida’s economy.

Before any serious discussion about taking economic development tools off the table, we should first make Florida more competitive by ending lawsuit abuse, stopping the Florida-only tax on rent for small businesses, ending unfunded liabilities on our pension system and more.


Watch and Share These Quick Videos on Economic Development

WATCH By the Numbers with Florida Chamber Foundation Chief Economist Dr. Jerry Parrish.

WATCH Florida Chamber’s Bottom Line with Ric Green, Pompano Beach Chamber of Commerce.

WATCH Florida Chamber’s Bottom Line with Rep. Ausley, Rep. Diamond, Rep. Jacquet and Rep. Silvers.

Did You Know Florida’s Year-Over-Year Job Creation Beats U.S. Growth?

Florida’s Year-Over-Year Job Creation was 248,800, a 3.0 Percent Increase Compared to the 1.6 Percent Rate for the U.S.

While Florida remains a leader in the nation, our state will need to create two million net new jobs between now and 2030. There are currently 501,000 Floridians looking for jobs, and 235,900 Florida jobs looking for people. Florida’s job creation appears to have peaked in 2015. Continued job creation is crucial to meet the needs of businesses and families, and Florida will have to work hard to continue to create jobs and diversify its economy.


Learn More:

Each month, the Florida Chamber Foundation presents a By The Numbers look at Florida’s economy both for today and the future. To begin receiving the Florida Chamber Foundation’s By The Numbers monthly updates, email us at

About the Florida Scorecard:

The Florida Scorecard, located at, presents metrics across Florida’s economy. If you would like additional information on the Weekly Scorecard Stat or on the Florida Scorecard, please contact Dr. Jerry Parrish with the Florida Chamber Foundation at

We Wouldn’t Have Gotten There Without Enterprise Florida


Greater Pompano Beach Chamber Leader Shares Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida Success Stories

SHARE OUR VIDEO: Click on the arrow in the top right corner of the video.

“Why do you quit? You’re ahead of the game. You don’t just stop.”

-Ric Green, President & CEO of the Greater Pompano Beach Chamber of Commerce

Click the image above to hear Ric Green, President and CEO of the Greater Pompano Beach Chamber of Commerce talk about the importance of continuing to support Enterprise Florida and VISIT FLORIDA. Mr. Green shares local stories about the support for both organizations from Broward County business leaders in this edition of the Florida Chamber’s Bottom Line.


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