Florida’s New $1 Trillion Economy Creates Opportunities

July 30, 2018

Opportunities That Can Also Overcome Challenges

I’ll never forget where I was on September 29, 2007.

It was a Saturday, and I was in the Atlanta airport, walking to my next connection to catch a flight to D.C. for a meeting with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. As I was keeping pace with others focused on catching their next flight, I happened to look over and saw a Wall Street Journal newspaper box and was immediately frozen in time.

The front-page headline said, “Is Florida Over?” Well, as the CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, you can probably imagine that it was not the type of headline you’d want to see in one of the nation’s most widely read newspapers.

A few years later, Florida made an incredible economic turnaround, and soon, even the WSJ would notice and write part two of that story – Has Florida found the secret to saving the economy?

Florida has come a long way in the last 10 years. In fact, in the past five years, Florida’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has grown by 27.2 percent, a rate that puts Florida’s GDP growth among the top five states in the country. And during the same time, Florida has produced more than 1 out of 11 jobs in the U.S.


As Will Weatherford, Managing Partner of Weatherford Capitol, former Speaker of the Florida House, and Florida Chamber Board member, recently wrote in Florida Politics:

“You would be hard pressed to find another economy with such robust growth. Florida has seen year-over-year GDP growth, jobs continue to be created and our unemployment rate continues to drop and has remained below the national average for the past several years.”

The good news is that Florida continues to break economic records. Earlier this month, Florida’s GDP topped $1 trillion.  Florida Chamber Foundation Chief Economist Dr. Jerry Parrish, just this past January, predicted that Florida would reach this new milestone during 2018. And just as Dr. Parrish predicted, Florida officially hit the new $1 trillion GDP in the last few weeks. To put this into perspective, if Florida was an independent country, our $1 trillion economy now ranks us as the 17th largest economy in the world – ahead of Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Argentina. Now, as Dr. Parrish explains, Florida is adding $2.74 billion each day to the state’s GDP.

“Becoming a $1 trillion economy means Florida is continuing to grow and create jobs, keeping unemployment lower than the national average, and creating economic opportunity,” Dr. Parrish said recently.

Florida’s GDP Milestone Garnered the Attention of National and International Headlines

  • Palm Beach PostU.S. News
  • Orlando Sentinel
  • Tampa Bay Times
  • The Capitolist
  • Atlanta Journal Constitution
  • MyFox Memphis
  • ForeignAffairsNZL
  • News4Jax
  • KISS 104.1
  • Dayton Daily News
  • Statesman
  • SpringfieldNews-Sun
  • Sunshine State News.

Of course, achieving a $1 trillion GDP is due in large part to Governor Scott, the Florida Cabinet and Florida Legislature. Consider that, until just a few years ago, Florida punished manufacturing investments twice (once at the state level, once at the local level). At the urging of the Florida Chamber, the legislature and Governor Scott removed the Machinery & Equipment (M&E) sales tax. Understanding that manufacturing jobs have the highest value added, removing this tax is making great strides and helping Florida climb in GDP rankings.


“This is an historic moment for Florida reaching a record $1 trillion in GDP. By working every day to create private-sector jobs, we’ve been able to increase Florida’s GDP by more than $270 billion – 37 percent – since 2010. When I came into office I made it very clear that we would get our economy back on track. Within seven and a half years, private-sector businesses have created more than 1.5 million jobs and Florida’s unemployment is at a low 3.8 percent. Florida’s growing economy is producing real results for families across our state and we now have the 17th largest economy in the world,” said Governor Rick Scott.



“Getting Florida’s economy out of the ditch and back on track has long been one of our state’s top priorities, and today’s announcement that our economy surpassed $1 trillion is incredible news for all Floridians. This milestone is further evidence that the pro-business policies and priorities championed by Governor Scott, the Cabinet and the legislature are working. Florida’s economy is on a roll, but complacency is not a strategy and we must continue to do all that we can to make the Florida’s economy as strong and resilient as possible,” said Adam Putnam, Commissioner of Agriculture.



“Florida’s strong economy is a testament to the work done over the past seven years to create an environment that keeps taxes low, reduces our debt, and makes Florida an attractive place to live, work, and raise a family. When we remove unnecessary burdens and overregulation, businesses can grow and create new jobs, while attracting new talent and companies to our state. It’s important that we continue this growth trend, and the policies that have helped us achieve this feat, to ensure Florida remains a top global economy,” said Jimmy Patronis, Chief Financial Officer.



According to TheFloridaScorecard.org, Florida has created 170,500 jobs over the past year, and has steadily kept unemployment rates below the national average. At the same time, achievement gaps are closing in Florida’s Pre-K-12 system, Florida continues to break visitation records, and our state is continuing to diversify its economy.

And while this growth is good news for Florida, challenges and opportunities remain. The Florida Chamber Foundation’s Florida 2030 research initiative (being released this year) shows the gaps Florida must close in order to continue to be globally competitive and grow smarter by 2030 and beyond. Consider that while achievement gaps are closing, 43 percent of 3rd graders aren’t reading at or above grade level. And while 1 in 11 jobs in the nation in the last five years were created in Florida, our state’s 14.8 percent poverty rate includes 21.3 percent of children under age 18. While Florida is better suited than most states in these areas, the Florida Chamber will continue to lead reforms that create economic opportunity.

As former Speaker Weatherford has said, “A $1 trillion economy is proof that when we stay focused on Florida’s long-term future and remain stalwart in our commitment to quality education, free enterprise and an unmatched quality of life, it suggests that we can continue to be one of the most exciting economic stories in the world.”

While we can certainly pay tribute to Florida’s new $1 trillion GDP success, we must also stay focused. The challenges that remain should be viewed as opportunities to further secure Florida’s future. Your dedication toward the common goal of making Florida more competitive, will help ensure that future Wall Street Journal headlines focus on economic prosperity for all.

Join Us

Register today for Florida’s premier forum focused on growing Florida to its full potential – the 2018 Florida Chamber Foundation Future of Florida Forum.

Former Speaker Will Weatherford Explains Why Electing the Right People Leads to Good Public Policy


FloridaWins.org   Constitution Revision Commission


The upcoming 2018 Legislative Session is the topic of discussion on the latest edition of The Florida Chamber’s Bottom Line. Will Weatherford , former Speaker of the House, current chair of the Florida Chamber’s Political Council and member of the Florida Chamber’s Board of Directors, discusses the need for the business community to get involved in both the candidates and issues that will be on the 2018 ballot.

He says Florida’s future will be greatly impacted by the outcome of the upcoming election and businesses should have a vested interest in making sure Florida is moving closer to a free market system.

“You can’t get the policy right for the state of Florida if you don’t get the politics right,” said Weatherford. “If we don’t have the right people in the right places in our elected positions of government and in authority in the state of Florida then we can’t anticipate or expect for good policy to come out in the end.”

Will Weatherford Shows No Signs of Going Away

By: Jeff Henderson
Even though he is now out of office, Will Weatherford showed this week that he has no intention of heading toward the sidelines.

Only 35, Weatherford just finished eight years in the Florida House including spending 2013 and 2014 as speaker. It’s no secret that Weatherford has ambitions for even higher office and, with youth on his side, his star could go far. But his path up is blocked by several other Republicans and, after being term-limited, last year Weatherford had no immediate office to target. The question turns now to how Weatherford can remain in the public eye while getting ready for 2018 or whenever he decides to run again.

Part of that became evident this week. Earlier this week, Weatherford announced the formation of Weatherford Partners — formed with two of his brothers including former FSU quarterback Drew Weatherford — to tackle capital investment. Later in the week, the former House speaker also joined the board of directors of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, an organization his father-in-law Allan Bense has ties to. On Thursday, Weatherford announced he was joining the board of directors of Sunshine Bancorp. Clearly a busy week for Weatherford.

During his time in Tallahassee, Weatherford generally went right on the issues including public pension reform, opposing Medicaid expansion and backing school choice. But Weatherford also went all in on expanding state tuition for illegals, often being farther out in front on the issue than Rick Scott and Don Gaetz.

Weatherford is still politically active with groups like the Republican State Leadership Committee. With ties to Pasco County and Bense’s connections in the stronghold, Weatherford does have enough of a geographic base for future tries at elected office.

But Weatherford is hampered by a crowded bench of Republicans who could be trying to move up the ladder in the years to come. Adam Putnam — not that much older than Weatherford — and Jeff Atwater are proven winners at the statewide level. Conservatives and tea parties could bolt Weatherford due to too many connections to the business leadership, the GOP establishment and in-state tuition.

In short, Weatherford can’t afford to sit on the sidelines and sit on company boards if he wants to keep his star in the ascendant. He’ll need to stay politically active. The Florida Chamber position shows Weatherford is aware of that but he’ll need more to stay in the public eye. Regardless, Weatherford is charismatic and dynamic. Even in his new posts, Weatherford remains one to keep an eye on in the months ahead.

Former House Speaker Will Weatherford Joins Florida Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors

CONTACT: Edie Ousley, 850-521-1231 or 850-251-6261

TALLAHASSEE, FL. (January 21, 2014) – The Florida Chamber of Commerce today announced that Managing Partner of Weatherford Partners and former Speaker of the House Will Weatherford, has joined the Florida Chamber’s Board of Directors.

“The Florida Chamber is pleased to welcome Will Weatherford to the Board of Directors,” said Mark Wilson, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber. “Speaker Weatherford and the Florida Chamber have a shared belief in securing Florida’s future by championing free enterprise solutions. As we continue on our mission to make Florida more competitive, the Florida Chamber is proud to have Will Weatherford and the team at Weatherford Partners help lead the way.”

Weatherford Partners works with high integrity owners and management teams to build great businesses through the provision of capital and strategic business advisory services. Weatherford Partners combines extensive investment, consulting, and political experience with a strong network of relationships and local market knowledge to work alongside their clients to achieve corporate objectives.

Prior to launching Weatherford Partners, Speaker Weatherford served as Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives from 2012-2014. Throughout his four consecutive terms in office, Speaker Weatherford advocated for social upward mobility through free enterprise and education reform. He was a thought leader on other pro-growth solutions including lower taxes, pension reform and free market health care. Speaker Weatherford was named the Florida Chamber’s Most Valuable Legislator in 2014, and consistently earned an ‘A’ on the Florida Chamber’s Legislative Report Card.

“When it comes to advocating on behalf of jobs and businesses in Florida, the Florida Chamber is second to none,” said Will Weatherford, Managing Partner of Weatherford Partners. “I’m excited to partner in the Florida Chamber’s efforts to advance economic opportunities through private-sector job creation, and look forward to working with Florida’s leading pro-jobs, pro-business organization.”

Businesses of all sizes, representing all sectors of Florida’s economy, comprise the Florida Chamber Board of Directors. Steve Knopik, CEO of Beall’s Inc., serves as Chairman of the Board.



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 Political Operations and the Florida Chamber Foundation. Visit www.FloridaChamber.com for more information.