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.

Gov. Scott: Nearly Twenty Thousand New Jobs Means Real Results for Families



TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — On June 15, 2018, Governor Rick Scott announced that Florida businesses have created 19,000 private-sector jobs in May and 179,000 in the past year, for a total of 1,539,800 jobs since December 2010. Florida’s annual job growth rate has outpaced the nation for 73 of the past 74 months. The only month that Florida did not exceed the nation was due to Hurricane Irma. In May, Florida’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.8 percent, a drop of 7.0 percentage points since December 2010; this drop is faster than the national decline of 5.5 percentage points.


Governor Scott said, “Florida’s growing economy is producing real results for families across our state. Every month, private-sector businesses are adding jobs, dropping our unemployment, making it easier for every Floridian to find great work. When I became Governor, I set out to create an environment where our private sector could flourish – and that remains my focus as we continue to outpace the nation. It’s clear – cutting taxes and investing in what matters to families works, and the rest of the country should take notice.”


Florida’s annual job growth rate of 2.4 percent continues to exceed the nation’s rate of 1.9 percent. In the past year, 124,000 people entered Florida’s labor force, a growth of 1.2 percent, which is greater than the national labor force growth rate of 1.1 percent.


Cissy Proctor, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, said, “Florida’s economy is thriving under Governor Scott’s leadership and through our efforts to grow and attract businesses. Our talented workforce and quality infrastructure support continued economic prosperity in the Sunshine State. Since 2010, more than 1.5 million jobs have been created showing the nation that Florida is the best state in the nation to live the American Dream.”


Other positive economic indicators include:

  • Private-sector industries gaining the most jobs over-the-year were:
    • Professional and business services with 39,200 new jobs;
    • Leisure and hospitality with 37,200 new jobs;
    • Construction with 31,300 new jobs;
    • Education and health services with 24,500 new jobs; and
    • Financial activities with 17,200 new jobs.
  • Florida job postings showed 242,546 openings in May 2018.
  • Consumer Sentiment is 100.6, up from 70.2 in 2010.

To view the May 2018 employment data visit 


Florida Chamber President Provides Hurricane Irma Economic Outlook During Testimony Before Senate Commerce Committee


Read Testimony   Fight AOB Fraud    Local Chamber Relief Fund


In a testimony before the Florida Senate Commerce Committee, Florida Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Wilson told lawmakers that Florida will rebound from Irma.

During his remarks to the committee, which is chaired by Senator Bill Montford (D-Tallahassee), Wilson encouraged lawmakers to focus on continuous improvement and to join forces with the private sector to help secure Florida’s future.  Click here to read Wilson’s testimony.

Irma yielded the largest evacuation in U.S. history, and as Wilson explained, there’s no question we’ll learn lessons from this storm. From an economic outlook perspective, Wilson testified that:

  • Tax revenue likely won’t keep up with storm expenses,
  • Job growth will continue to slow,
  • A gap in skilled labor – particularly for home repairs and rebuilding – will hurt in the short-term, and
  • Lawsuit chasers, as highlighted in the Wall Street Journal, “are trying to milk the public’s pain for their own gain.” Wilson encouraged lawmakers to side with consumers in frivolous class action claims.

Looking forward, he applauded state leaders for making smart public policy decisions to reduce exposure and spread risk in Citizens Property Insurance and Florida’s CAT Fund. However, he warned that the tsunami of assignment of benefit-related claims that have flooded the market – unrelated to Hurricane Irma – are causing property insurance rates to skyrocket. He encouraged lawmakers to make meaningful reforms this session.

Wilson was joined on the panel by partners in Florida’s business community, including:

  • Cissy Proctor, Executive Director, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity
  • Ken Lawson, President & CEO, VISIT FLORIDA
  • Michelle Dennard, President and CEO, CareerSource Florida
  • Cheryl Kirby, Associate State Director, Florida SBDC
  • Lance Lozano, Chief Operating Officer, Florida United Business Association


Call on the Legislature to Fight AOB Fraud

Fight back against the growing storm of assignment of benefits fraud. Sign the petition and call on the Legislature to stop this “Category 5 hurricane.”


Support Local Chambers in Need

Support local chambers in need of relief following Hurricane Irma by contributing to the Florida Chamber Local Chamber Relief Fund.

Cissy Proctor Talks to Members of the Florida Chamber’s Small Business Council


The Florida Chamber’s Small Business Council held its monthly conference call on April 24. Thank you to those of you who were able join us on the call. We appreciated the opportunity to keep small business leaders like you informed on issues impacting Florida’s small business community. During the call Cissy Proctor, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, provided an update on Florida’s job growth for January, February and March. Director Proctor also shared that Florida’s job growth outpaced the nation six times over.

Dr. Jerry Parrish, Chief Economist for the Florida Chamber Foundation, provided an overview of the Florida Chamber’s Q2 Small Business Index Survey results, which shows Florida job creators increasingly concerned about workforce quality and government regulations. Dr. Parrish also shared that fewer small businesses have confidence that Florida’s business climate is headed in the right direction.

We also heard from Frank Walker, Vice President of Governmental Affairs, who shared that there is still a lot of uncertainty as it relates to the 2017 Legislative Session, especially in regards to the passage of next fiscal year’s budget. Mr. Walker provided an update on key legislation including prejudgement interest, workers’ comp reform and Assignment of benefits (AOB), as well as the passage of the Florida Chamber-Backed Ridesharing Legislation which embraces innovation, strengthens job growth and provides ridesharing opportunities for Floridians and the 112+ million annual visitors to Florida.


Mark Your Calendar: Next Conference Call is May 22, 2017

Small businesses are important to Florida’s growing economy. Please mark your calendars for our next conference call on May 22 at 1:30 p.m. Do not miss this opportunity to join the discussion and make your voice heard. For more information on the Florida Chamber’s Small Business Council or becoming a member of the Florida Chamber, please contact Carolyn Johnson at (850) 521-1235.

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.

Florida Chamber Release First in Series of Educational Water Videos Featuring FAU-Harbor Branch Research Professor Dr. Brian Lapointe

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Sept. 8, 2016) – As part of its ongoing efforts to help secure Florida’s future, the Florida Chamber of Commerce today released the first in a series of educational videos solely focused on ensuring Florida’s water future is sustainable and provides the quality of life Floridians and visitors deserve.

Securing Florida’s Water Future: Indian River Lagoon


Together, with FAU-Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Research Professor Dr. Brian Lapointe, this series of educational videos focuses on science-based water quality solutions– starting first with the Indian River Lagoon.

“When it comes to securing Florida’s future, there are few issues more important than water,” said MARK WILSON, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber. “With six million more people expected to call Florida home by 2030, science-based data is key to meeting the challenges Florida faces.”

The video, Securing Florida’s Water Future: Indian River Lagoon, features the following water and environmental leaders:

  • Clay Henderson, Executive Director, Stetson University Institute for Water and Environmental Resilience
  • Dan Pennington, Planning Analyst, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity
  • Todd Kincaid, PH.D., Hydrogeologist, GeoHydros
  • Donna Rhoden, Public Information Manager, Port St. Lucie Utility
  • Nat Reed, Former Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife and National Parks
  • Doug Smith, Commissioner, District One, Martin County

“I’ve spent decades studying water quality throughout Florida, including nutrient pollution and harmful algae blooms,” said Dr. Brian Lapointe, FAU-Harbor Branch Research Professor. “This project with the Florida Chamber allows me and my colleagues an opportunity to share this research so the public can better understand how human activities are impacting Florida’s water resources.”

Economies across the state rely on water, an abundant resource in Florida. Water issues affect these areas economically and scientific steps should to be taken to prevent and counteract this side-effect of water pollution, a point Dr. Lapointe stresses in a Bottom Line interview with the Florida Chamber.

For more information, yisit the Florida Chamber’s water solutions page.


Florida Chamber Drives Support for Florida R&D Tax Credit

The Florida Chamber of Commerce continues its efforts to attract high-wage jobs and increase global competitiveness by advocating for increases in Florida’ Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit.

Florida’s innovation economy is growing and the R&D Tax Credit is an important tool to grow Florida’s economy.

In testimony before the House Finance and Tax Committee last week, Florida Chamber Policy Director Carolyn Johnson testified in support of legislation that will increase the credit.

“The cap for the R&D tax credit has been met each year since the credit’s existence, with the last two years being met in less than 10 minutes,” said Carolyn Johnson, Florida Chamber Director of Business, Economic Development and Innovation Policy told members of the committee. “We must continue to encourage research and development in our state, drive innovation, and send a message to companies that they should do their research in Florida.”

Members of the Finance & Tax Committee, including Representative Jay Fant (R-Jacksonville) and Representative Jason Brodeur (R-Sanford) expressed interest in increasing R&D and taking a closer look at the R&D Tax Credit when considering tax cuts.  Already, two bills have been filed – increasing the cap from $9 million to $23 million – by Representative Narain (D-Tampa) and Senator Brandes (R-St. Petersburg).

Joining the Florida Chamber of Commerce in support of increasing the amount for the R&D Tax Credit were the Manufacturers Association of Florida and BioFlorida.

During the 2015 Legislative Session, the Florida Chamber was successful in increasing the $9 million cap to $23 million for the 2015 tax year, with applications opening up on March 20, 2016.  Additional changes were made to the program that would prorate the credit if the cap is exceeded, allow for a week-long application period, and require companies to certify with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity that they are in a qualified industry prior to the application date.

Take Action Now

To learn more about the R&D Tax Credit or support our efforts to increase the cap, contact Carolyn Johnson at 850-521-1235 or

Director Jesse Panuccio Tackles Fraud, Jobs and Florida’s Turnaround Story

“The most important incentive we have is the general business climate in Florida — low taxes, sensible regulations, the investments we’ve put in critical infrastructure— so that’s the baseline of what draws people here.”

– Jesse Panuccio, Executive Director, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity

Florida’s recovery has not come easy and has worked, in part, thanks to a united business community advocating under one voice. The Florida Chamber has long-advocated for policies that help create jobs and that will continue to stabilize our growing economy.

Public benefits fraud, if left unchecked, is one such issue that could quickly move our state in the wrong direction. Thanks to the leadership of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, however, Florida is leading the way on fighting fraud and ensuring tax payers don’t have to foot the bill.


“We decided to use a data analytics system to look for patterns of fraud and see what we could find and the results were staggering— over the last two years we found over 130,000 fraudulent claims,” said Executive Director Jesse Panuccio. “If we had paid full benefits on these it would have been $529 million! This is a huge industry, it’s terribly harmful for the social safety net, for the resources we have to run the program and pay benefits and it’s a crisis I think that isn’t getting enough attention nationally. What we are endeavoring to do at DEO is to become the number one agency in the country for fighting public benefits fraud, we are trying to set an example of what you can do if you really focus on this and we are getting results.”


Along with fighting fraud, Florida must also continue to attract targeted businesses to our state. Florida does many things right in terms of business climate, but we must continue to market our state nationally- something competitive states often spend millions on each year.


“The most important incentive we have is the general business climate in Florida— low taxes, sensible regulations, the investments we’ve put in critical infrastructure— so that’s the baseline of what draws people here,” said Director Panuccio. “But for those very competitive projects, we do have a suite of tax incentives. DEO works with our partners at Enterprise Florida and local economic development agencies to bring those projects and administer those incentives… So DEO can be seen as the agency that sort of protects the tax payer money. Enterprise Florida is the chief marketer, they help negotiate the deals, we make sure that proper due diligence is performed on those deals and monitor performance so that tax payers get exactly what they bargained for.”


And on the “Florida Miracle,” our state has come a long way:


“Florida has had an incredible economic turnaround story over the last few years,” said Director Panuccio. “Our role is really to coordinate workforce development, economic development and community development and growth management. We administer a lot of the policies and programs that are really focused on growing the jobs base in this state. We are seeing results- again we allow the private sector to keep their money and have lower taxes and growth and they do the right thing, they invest it smartly and we’ve seen that job growth. We are now outpacing all other larges states in terms of our private-sector job growth.”

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.



Polytechnic University Launch Draws Attention to Florida’s Innovation Needs

“Innovation occurs when research and creativity are applied to real-world challenges.”

Before even opening their doors, Florida Polytechnic University’s main goal has echoed throughout our state, and mirrors the Florida Chamber’s 2030 and beyond planning focus: we must prepare Florida’s students for STEM-related careers.

“Florida Polytechnic’s inaugural class will include 500 freshman, transfer and graduate students all hoping to pursue STEM-related careers in the high-tech industry when they graduate,” said Crystal Lauderdale, a spokesperson for Florida Polytechnic “We know how important STEM education is to developing our state’s economy, and at Florida Poly, that economic development is a big part of our mission and focus.”

Indeed, the newest member of the State University System of Florida is the state’s only public university dedicated wholly to STEM career paths, where students can major in anything from a B.S. in Computer Engineering to an M.S. in Innovation and Technology. The Lakeland university’s difference is their focus on integrated, technologically-based learning models, that give students hands-on experience and allow them to graduate ready to enter the competitive high-tech workforce.

Florida has come a long way – our education reforms are working, and our students continue to rank high in the nation and the world on renowned tests. But even so, the move toward a STEM-dedicated university comes at a time when Florida is facing a serious skills and talent gap.

While job growth through 2021 will be about 12 percent, data from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity shows STEM discipline growth projections at more than double that. If Florida does not possess a robust talent pipeline in STEM fields, job creators will be forced to move elsewhere to recruit highly-skilled talent.

“At the Florida Chamber of Commerce, we know securing our state’s future means embracing innovation and technology,” said Adam Giery, Director of Education, Talent and Quality of Life Policy at the Florida Chamber. “In June, there were more than 53,000 unfilled STEM jobs in our state. At a higher education level, our state needs to focus on providing an adequate talent pool so our manufacturing, international, construction, aerospace and other STEM-related industries have the talent they need to grow.”

Tell Us Your Story:

Why does STEM matter to your business? Share your story with us! Join the discussion on Florida’s emerging talent gaps and be a part of the solution at the Florida Chamber Foundation’s 2014 Future of Florida Forum and Annual Board of Governors Meeting Sept. 28-Oct 1 in Orlando. Click here to register or view the agenda.

Future is Bright for Florida’s Military, Defense and Veterans Success

CONTACT: Tracey Lowe
Florida Chamber Foundation
Phone: 850-521-1226
Cell: 850-212-8438

Florida Chamber Summit Urges Continued Focus on Protecting State’s Military Investments

TALLAHASSEE, FL. (August 13, 2014) – The future looks bright for Florida’s military, defense industry and veterans, but we must remain laser focused on protecting the state’s financial and physical military interest to remain competitive, leaders attending the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Military, Defense Industry and Veterans Opportunities Summit said today.

“The Committee on Veterans Affairs was able to put together and pass bipartisan legislation that is a good first step to bring better healthcare to our nation’s veterans,” Congressman Jeff Miller, Chair of the U.S. House Committee on Veterans Affairs told summit attendees. Miller also highlighted Florida Governor Rick Scott and his dedication to the state’s veteran population.

An analysis by the Florida Chamber Foundation shows the important role Florida’s military, defense industry and its veteran population have on the state’s economy:

  • Economic impact – more than $70 billion, or about 10 percent of Florida’s economy,
  • 1.5 million combat veterans call Florida home,
  • More than 60,000 activity duty U.S. service members reside in Florida with their families,
  • Florida’s 20 major military installations account for more than 750,000 jobs, and
  • The average annual wages in the industry are more than $75,000.

Partner organizations like Enterprise Florida, Inc., the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity play vital roles in helping strengthen the military, defense and veterans industry.

“With a Governor that is focused on jobs and, as a veteran himself who understands the policies needed to be made to help the defense industry, we will make this the best state for manufacturers to build for the defense of our country,” Rep. Jimmie T. Smith (HD 43, Lecanto) told summit attendees.

The Florida Chamber Foundation, host of today’s summit, remains focused on ensuring Florida’s military, defense industry and veterans future is bright. For a more competitive Florida, the Florida Chamber of Commerce remains committed to making Florida more competitive by protecting investments in the military and defense industry and supporting veterans.

Today’s Military, Defense Industry and Veterans Opportunities Summit also featured U.S. Congressman John Mica, former U.S. V.A. Secretary Anthony Principi, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Jesse Panuccio and Florida Department of Veterans Affairs’ Executive Director Mike Prendergast. Tony Carvajal, Executive Vice President of the Florida Chamber Foundation, served as emcee.




The Florida Chamber Foundation is the business-led, solutions development and research organization working in partnership with state business leaders to secure Florida’s future. The Foundation’s “Six Pillars” serve as a visioning platform for developing the first-ever, long-term strategic plan for the state. The Foundation’s work focuses on: 1) Talent Supply and Education, 2) Innovation and Economic Development, 3) Infrastructure and Growth Leadership, 4) Business Climate and Competitiveness, 5) Civic and Governance Systems, and 6) Quality of Life and Quality Places. Founded in 1968, the Foundation is a crucial voice for improving the state’s pro-business climate to enable Florida to grow and prosper. For more information, visit