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.

Florida’s Top Economic Development Leader Pushes for VISIT FLORIDA and Qualified Targeted Industry Investments

Shares How Florida’s DEO is Helping with Long-Term Hurricane Disaster Relief

TALLAHASSEE, Fla (February 25, 2020) – 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,” said Lawson. “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 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.”

Click HERE to watch the latest edition of the Florida Chamber’s Bottom Line public affairs program.

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Established in 1916 as Florida’s first statewide business advocacy organization, the Florida Chamber of Commerce is the voice of business and the state’s largest federation of employers, chambers of commerce and associations aggressively representing small and large businesses from every industry and every region. The Florida Chamber works within all branches of government to affect those changes set forth in the annual Florida Business Agenda, and which are seen as critical to secure Florida’s future. The Florida Chamber works closely with its Florida Political Operations and the Florida Chamber Foundation. Visit www.FloridaChamber.com for more information.

URGENT: VISIT FLORIDA is in Jeopardy

On February 13, 2020, the Florida Senate passed legislation to reauthorize VISIT FLORIDA and recommended full-funding.

But, the future of VISIT FLORIDA is still in jeopardy.

The Florida House of Representatives is recommending shutting down the state’s tourism marketing program.

Please take 10 seconds to send a message to your members of the Florida House, and ask them to join the Florida Senate in reauthorizing and investing in VISIT FLORIDA.

Click HERE to email your representative a brief message, or click HERE to tweet a message to your representative.

Florida can’t afford to lose the state’s tourism marketing arm.

Governor DeSantis’s Legislative Affairs Director Stephanie Kopelousos Shares Insights on EFI, Legal Reform & VISIT FLORIDA on the Florida Chamber’s Bottom Line

TALLAHASSEE, FL (February 12, 2020) – 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 meaningful 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.

# # #

Established in 1916 as Florida’s first statewide business advocacy organization, the Florida Chamber of Commerce is the voice of business and the state’s largest federation of employers, chambers of commerce and associations aggressively representing small and large businesses from every industry and every region. The Florida Chamber works within all branches of government to affect those changes set forth in the annual Florida Business Agenda, and which are seen as critical to secure Florida’s future. The Florida Chamber works closely with its Florida Political Operations and the Florida Chamber Foundation. Visit www.FloridaChamber.com for more information.

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.

Florida Chamber Bottom Line: Senator Gruters Discusses Job Growth and Rolling Back Business Regulations

 

Sign Our Tourism Petition     Watch Dana Young    Sign Our Tax Reform Petition

 

Senator Joe Gruters Explains Why Jobs Keep Florida Competitive

The latest edition of the Florida Chamber’s Bottom Line features Senator Joe Gruters, Chair of the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee, discussing job creation and how it attracts more businesses and keeps skilled workers in Florida. .

“We can encourage more companies to move down here because I think it will generate the type of jobs we want here in Florida,” said Gruters. “These highly focused, high wage-paying jobs will keep our college graduates here at home.”

Also, in case you missed it, click here to watch Senator Gruters share why VISIT FLORIDA and tax reform are vital for Florida’s future.

ICYMI:

Debra Harvey, COO, Ron Jon Surf Shop and Florida Chamber Board of Directors member, recently wrote in the Daytona Beach News Journal:

 “Eliminating VISIT FLORIDA means Florida will lose business, market share and tax dollars to competing destinations. Look no further than Colorado, Texas and Pennsylvania to see how their states were impacted when tourism marketing investments were cut.” Debra Harvey, Ron Jon Surf Shop

Florida Chamber Bottom Line: Senator Gruters Prioritizes VISIT FLORIDA & Tax Reform

 

Sign Our Tourism Petition     Watch Dana Young    Sign Our Tax Reform Petition

 

 Senator Joe Gruters Explains Why VISIT FLORIDA & Tax Reform Are Vital

The latest edition of the Florida Chamber’s Bottom Line, features Senator Joe Gruters, Chair of the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee, to discuss top priority bills he is sponsoring during the 2019 Legislative Session, including investing in VISIT FLORIDA and target tax reform bills.

“We are a tourism driven economy and everything we do is tourism based,” said Gruters. “We have to reauthorize this thing. When we had Matthew, Michael, Irma and red tide hit, who was there to pick up the pieces when all these devastating things happened? It was VISIT FLORIDA. They let people know that Florida was open for business.”

 

Florida Chamber Foundation’s 2019 Future of Florida Forum

The Florida Chamber Foundation, along with business leaders, industry experts and elected officials from around Florida will come together October 28-30 in Orlando to engage in-depth conversations about the opportunities and innovations Florida can expect in 2030 and beyond. Click here to be among the first to know when registration opens.

Ron Jon Surf Shop Exec: Don’t Gamble with Florida’s Successful Tourism Marketing Program

 

Sign Our Tourism Petition

 

By Debra Harvey | March 25, 2019 | The Daytona Beach News Journal

VISIT FLORIDA has routinely demonstrated the value of tourism marketing.

Recent debate in Tallahassee has left many in the business community scratching our heads. That’s because the Florida House of Representatives is undertaking a dangerous exercise to shutter VISIT FLORIDA and end Florida’s tourism marketing efforts. Gambling with Florida’s number one economic engine is a bad bet that jeopardizes more than 1.4 million jobs as well as Florida’s income tax free status.

Almost every state in the nation and every developed tourism destination in the entire world markets its tourism product. Yet the Florida House believes that the Sunshine State — the number one tourism destination in the world _ should stop. Instead, lawmakers in the House are poised to allow VISIT FLORIDA to disappear on October 1, 2019.

This is an irresponsible move. When it comes to return on investment, VISIT FLORIDA has routinely demonstrated the value of tourism marketing. Just last month, they announced Florida’s eighth consecutive record year for visitation with 126.1 million people traveling to Florida. Strong visitation numbers like these help to ensure hotels remain occupied, restaurants stay full, and most importantly, that our taxes are being paid with money from outside of the state through sales tax.

According to the Florida Chamber of Commerce, visitors to Florida contribute more than $12 billion in state and local tax revenue annually. And, every 76 visitors to Florida creates one new job.

Eliminating VISIT FLORIDA means Florida will lose business, market share and tax dollars to competing destinations. Look no further than Colorado, Texas and Pennsylvania to see how their states were impacted when tourism marketing investments were cut.

More importantly, decreases in visits to Florida will also mean lost jobs. Even a two percent drop in Florida’s visitor spending would cost the state 18,000 jobs, nearly $500 million in payroll associated with those jobs, and over $130 million in state and local tax revenue. In communities impacted by hurricanes, red tide and other natural disasters, it’s absolutely vital that VISIT FLORIDA help ensure the world knows that Florida is open for business.

If you’re among the 1.4 million Floridians whose job is inextricably linked to the tourism industry, you should be concerned. Now is not the time to gamble with Florida’s future.

Please contact your state representative and let them know that we can ensure Florida remains competitive by reauthorizing and fully funding VISIT FLORIDA.

— Harvey is president and chief operating officer of Ron Jon Surf Shop of Florida.

Florida Chamber Bottom Line: VISIT FLORIDA’s Dana Young Shares Tourism Update

 

Sign Our Tourism Petition

 

Florida Tourism Equals Dollars

In the latest edition of the Florida Chamber Bottom Line, we sat down with Dana Young, the newly appointed President & CEO of VISIT FLORIDA, to discuss Florida’s growing tourism and the positive economic effects of welcoming record-breaking numbers of visitors to the Sunshine State.

“What tourism means to Florida is dollars,” said Young. “For every dollar the state gives to VISIT FLORIDA we generate two dollars back to the state… that means we live in a state with no corporate income tax, that means that our cost of living is lower.”

 

Florida Breaks Tourism Record for Eighth Year

During the Florida Chamber’s 2019 Legislative Fly-In, Dana Young announced that Florida had once again broken a tourism record, with more than 126 million visitors coming to Florida in 2018. Help us continue breaking records and creating economic opportunity for Florida by signing our petition today.

Gov. Scott: Florida’s Tourism Industry Booming, Achieves Highest Quarter Ever

On June 5, 2018, Governor Rick Scott announced that Florida welcomed an all-time record 33.2 million visitors to the Sunshine State in the first quarter of 2018. This represents an increase of 7.4 percent over the same period in 2017 and is the largest quarter for visitation in Florida history.

Governor Scott said, “I am proud to announce that Florida set an all-time record by welcoming over 33 million visitors to our state during the first quarter of 2018. This historic tourism number represents a 7.4 percent increase over last year and demonstrates the momentum that our state has built. Since December 2010, Florida has created more than 1.5 million jobs, and a large part of this growth is because of the incredible success of our state’s tourism industry. I appreciate the team at VISIT FLORIDA and their help making these historic numbers possible.”

VISIT FLORIDA estimates that a record 29.1 million domestic visitors traveled to Florida in Q1 2018, an 8.5 percent increase in domestic visitors over the same period last year. Following efforts by VISIT FLORIDA and Governor Scott to better market Florida visitation in Canada, 1.4 million Canadians came to Florida in Q1 2018, an increase of 2.5 percent from Q1 2017, continuing Florida’s strong growth of 4 percent in calendar year 2017. Total enplanements at Florida’s 18 major airports in Q1 2018 increased 7.6 percent over the same period the previous year, with Orlando International Airport reporting the most enplaned passengers at nearly 6 million. Of total enplanements, 80.1 percent were domestic, up 1.4 million compared to Q1 of last year. The number of rooms sold and the hotel occupancy rate in Q1 2018 also grew by 3.3 percent and 1.9 percent respectively.

Ken Lawson, President and CEO of VISIT FLORIDA, said, “This record setting quarter of 33.2 million visitors to our state, the largest quarter in our state’s history, shows that VISIT FLORIDA is marketing our state like never before. With the help of our 12,000 industry partners, we saw a historic 7.4 percent increase over last year, which is fantastic news. We will continue developing more innovative and cutting-edge marketing programs to build on this success across the country and across the world. I am very proud of our team’s efforts as we continue to market Florida as the number one global destination.”

 

To view additional Florida visitor data, go the research page on VISIT FLORIDA’s media website.

Tourism is Key to Florida’s Competitiveness

Florida reached another record-breaking year for tourism, by welcoming more than 116 million visitors from other states and countries in 2017.

Tourism is key to Florida’s competitiveness. The truth is that visitors to Florida help “pay the bills” and help ensure Floridians don’t pay a personal income tax.

Florida’s tourism industry brings in more than $6 billion in state taxes, and more than $5 billion in local taxes which in turn helps fund schools, improve healthcare and support other government services.

During tough economic times, investments in tourism marketing helped lift Florida up while also creating jobs for families. In fact, for every 85 visitors to Florida, one job is created.

Interestingly, first time visitors become long-term residents after learning of Florida’s welcoming and competitive business climate, and no personal income tax. And tourism is helping diversify Florida’s economy by increasing our international exposure – or increasing international trade in services.

However, one of the greatest benefits of Florida’s competitive advantage in tourism is that jobs in the tourism and hospitality industry are among the biggest training grounds for the skills employers are looking for.

At a time when Florida’s job creators are increasingly concerned with workforce quality, these are the very skills that will move Florida forward and support the 398,000 people looking for jobs.

While some jobs created are entry-level positions, Florida must continue to create an entry point into the workforce. This is especially important for helping the 2.9 million Floridians in poverty, by providing our residents with work-based solutions. We must keep in mind that the economic benefits of helping people into the workforce includes the opportunity to gain skills and earn an income – reducing dependence on social programs.

Through on-the-job training, internships and apprenticeships, employees learn valuable skills that contribute to a quality workforce in the future. Florida’s tourism and hospitality industry takes on-the-job training to new levels, and according to the U.S. Travel Association, two out of five workers that start their careers in hospitality end up earning six figures.

There’s little doubt that those who have moved to Florida – more than 100,000 in just the last year from Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut – were first exposed to Florida as tourists. Florida will see increasing amounts of new residents from these states and others because of the change in tax laws benefiting Florida’s families and businesses. Florida Chamber Foundation’s Chief Economist Dr. Jerry Parrish expects Florida’s population to expand by at least 400,000 residents during the next year. This means nearly 1,100 net new residents a day.

Florida’s tourism and hospitality industry are vital to Florida’s economy, and as Florida’s population continues to grow, so must our focus on making Florida the best place to live, work, and visit!

What Others Are Saying

  • Ken Lawson, President & CEO, VISIT FLORIDA: “Florida is open for all tourists from all the states and all countries.”
  • Q&A with Jim Dean, President of SeaWorld, Orlando
  • Expedia: A Partner in Florida Tourism

Help Secure Florida’s Tourism Industry

Florida welcomed 116.5 million visitors from other states and other countries in 2017. As the third largest state in the nation, how does tourism impact Florida’s long-term future? When visitors come to Florida, they help create jobs and pay $6 billion in state taxes and $5.3 billion in local taxes. Sales and other taxes paid by visitors help keep Floridians from having to pay an income tax. In fact, visitors to Florida pay in taxes the equivalent of $1,535 per Florida household. Tourism in Florida not only helps create jobs, but also allows Floridians in those jobs to acquire employability skills.

If you believe Florida’s tourism industry can continue to lead the way in the nation, sign the petition today.

Record 116.5 Million Visitors to Florida in 2017

 

Did you know that according to new numbers released today, Florida has reached another record-breaking year for Florida tourism? In 2017, 116.5 million visitors came to Florida, an increase of 3.6 percent of visitors in 2016, according to recently released numbers by VISIT FLORIDA.

When visitors come to Florida, they help create jobs and contribute billions of dollars in state and local taxes. In fact, every 85 visitors supports one job in Florida. Visitors to Florida also create jobs for the tourism and hospitality industry and leave Florida having paid more than $11 billion in state and local taxes.

Tourism is Key to Florida’s Competitiveness

How will the future of work impact this industry? What skills are businesses looking for in their workforce to allow them to continue to create jobs and economic opportunity? Join the conversation at the 2018 Learners to Earners Workforce Summit, where business leaders from around the state will discuss the future of work, skills and what Florida needs to get right for 2030 and beyond.

Infrastructure and Tourism Funding Key to Florida’s Competitiveness

 

Take Our Economic Development Survey   Transportation Investments   Record-Breaking Tourism

 

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.

Representative Raschein Talks Tourism Budget and Florida Keys Recovery

 

The Florida Chamber’s Bottom Line public affairs program spoke with Representative Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo) about recovery efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, Florida’s tourism industry, and the issues surrounding VISIT FLORIDA’s budget.

“Every day we get a little better in the keys. We’ve got our essential needs covered right now – food, fuel, water and communications. But now, we are in the harder long-term recovery phase and housing is a critical need right now,” Representative Raschein said. “Tourism is our number one industry, so just letting folks know that we are back open for business, we are a little bit changed right now, but we are getting better day by day.”

Representative Raschein said she wants to see a unified approach to solving VISIT FLORIDA’s budget from both the House and the Senate.

“VISIT FLORIDA is an incredible agency,” Representative Raschein said. “It is my hope that we see both chambers come together and understand that these dollars pay for themselves and are so beneficial to our state. It is my hope that the Senate will see and come to the House’s position.”

 

Get Involved

Florida’s tourism industry is at risk with the proposed funding for VISIT FLORIDA cutting more than one-third of their 2016 budget. To help keep Florida’s tourism industry thriving or for more information, please contact Carolyn Johnson at cjohnson@flchamber.com or (850) 521-1235.

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.