Using examples in education, trade, tourism, manufacturing and more, Florida Gov. Rick Scott stressed the value of public policy to help shape the future and improve lives, praising the JU Public Policy Institute for its efforts during a speech to the Institute’s board of advisors Thursday, Feb. 7.
“Thank you all for being so involved in policy, because it really does matter. It impacts families every day, so know that what you are doing matters,” he said. “This community is very organized. Your business community is very organized. Your leadership is very organized and gets a lot of things done. I brag about Jacksonville all the time.”
The governor wrapped up a daylong visit to the area with dinner and remarks at the JU PPI, which is now taking Fall 2013 applications for the first Master in Public Policy (MPP) degree in the state. Rick Mullaney, founding director of the Institute, addressed the governor and board, explaining that in addition to the MPP degree, the institute is offering three dual degrees, including the MPP and law, business and marine science dual degree programs.
The board also heard from new Jacksonville University President Tim Cost, who applauded the Institute for adding to the “muscle” of signature programs like nursing, business, aviation and marine science that is being built around the University’s liberal arts core.
“I could not be more proud — coming myself from a business background where I engaged in public policy related to finance, health care, economics, taxes, education and more — to have the Public Policy Institute here,” Cost said. “We will go further than we have ever gone in creating long-lasting relationships in the region and stressing the important role we play in the community.”
In his remarks, the governor illustrated how public policy decisions can affect the state economy:
The state lost about 800,000 jobs in the four years before he took office, he said, and unemployment rose to 11.1 percent. Florida refocused on “getting going on jobs,” looking at key industries such as tourism and more, cutting taxes and reducing regulations. With more businesses now eyeing the state and hiring picking up, the state’s unemployment rate should be below the national average by March.
Tourism was stagnating, but the state recognized it needed to play to its strengths, invested more money in it and expanded it efforts, and as a result, 89 million people visited the state last year. “No one moves here to Florida who hasn’t visited first … people like it here, and we’re paying more attention.”
Miami got out ahead of other ports in the state by “outhustling everybody” and will have its port’s deep-dredging done likely a decade ahead of competing ports, Scott said. Their port officials secured tens of millions of dollars in local, state and federal money for an expansion that will likely create more than 30,000 new jobs. “We have 15 ports … and we are now investing more money in all of them.”
For years, Florida was known as frowning on manufacturing, driving CEOs away with taxes on equipment and machinery and delay-inducing regulations. “We have less than half the number of jobs (as a percent of all jobs) as the nation as a whole. We should have way more than that.” The state has decided to get more aggressive in this area and has an economic development group focused on the issue. As a result, it had 160 projects being considered last year, two that each employ 4,000 in high-paying jobs, and another 20 with over 800 jobs each. “These are game-changers that have a multiplier effect. Every deal creates the next opportunity.”
With more jobs, a more focused effort and with places like the JU PPI creating new leaders who can solve problems, “people are optimistic again in Florida,” Scott said.
“Our goal when we are done, is that everybody in the state can say they have a better chance to live the American dream that their parents talked to them about than in any other place in the country, and in the world,” he said. “This will be a place where they can live their dreams. They can start a company, and can do whatever they want to do, because this is a state where their child has a better chance of a great education. It’s all doable, and it won’t be an expensive place to live.”