Florida: Creating a Bright and Innovative Future

Governor Charlie Crist focuses on Florida’s unique strengths by creating special incentives for the space industry, biotechnology and other innovation growth sectors.

As part of his ongoing focus on growing Florida’s economy through job retention and creation, workforce training and economic development, Governor Charlie Crist highlighted his proposed economic budget strategies at the “Florida’s Future Summit” in February. The summit emphasized the importance of increasing South Florida’s focus on economic drivers such as workforce, innovation, infrastructure, global competitiveness, quality of life, and streamlined civic and government systems.

“My focus continues to be on strengthening Florida’s economy and creating jobs for the people of our state,” says Gov. Crist. “The talent of our workforce is the formula to Florida’s economic success, and I am committed to building a workforce ready to step into the innovation, knowledge-based economy of the 21st century.”

During his remarks, Gov. Crist highlighted his commitment to growing the state’s innovation economy, ensuring a competitive business climate, building a world-class workforce, and establishing Florida as a pre-eminent global trade hub. He also reiterated his economic budget priorities, which include $307.5-million for targeted economic development initiatives and incentives to help increase Florida’s competitiveness in key business sectors, including digital media and information technology, aviation and aerospace, defense, biotechnology, tourism, sports, and film and entertainment through the Governor’s Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development (OTTED).

“Collaboration among Florida’s talent supply chain, which includes educators and business leaders like the Florida Chamber of Commerce, is crucial for the prosperity of tomorrow’s knowledge-based economy,” says Gov. Crist. “While we focus on attracting innovative companies to our state, we must also continue to prioritize local business needs like tax relief and the development of our workforce.”

Recently, Gov. Crist also proposed additional strategies for growing jobs, businesses and economic opportunities through $100 million in tax relief to families and businesses. Gov. Crist recommended a $9.7-billion investment in economic development, which includes infrastructure, workforce development and incentives for small businesses. The Florida governor also recommended continued investments to assist individuals, businesses and communities as the state’s economy recovers.

“The successes we are seeing in Florida’s biotechnology business hub show us that we must continue our efforts to attract and retain companies in Florida’s innovation sectors,” Gov. Crist says. “Florida’s business friendliness, talented workforce, beautiful environment and pleasant climate make the Sunshine State an excellent location for companies seeking to grow economic opportunities.”

Highlights of the governor’s planned incentives needed to build Florida’s innovation economy include the following:

• Space Florida, $32.6 million—In response to the federal policy decision to end the space shuttle program and to initiate new human space exploration missions beyond earth’s orbit, Gov. Crist proposed $20 million to Space Florida to fund business recruitment activities, including:

• Financing for Space Industry Jobs Retention and Business Expansion—$10 million for an internal source of financing and investment funds to provide additional opportunities for expanding space businesses and to establish sustained industry growth.

• Expanded Space Business Services—$3 million to provide assistance to emerging space businesses pursuing opportunities in Florida.

In addition, Gov. Crist recommended $12.6 million to assist in the development and management of state-of-the-art facilities for space businesses that will create high-technology, high-wage jobs. This funding will enable Space Florida to invest in a technology and commerce park that utilizes Florida’s space assets; refurbish Launch Complex 46 to promote commercial use; and renovate facilities to attract businesses and foster the growth of a sustainable and world-class aerospace industry in Florida.

• Workforce Development Assistance—$3.2 million to provide support to workforce development programs and technical training initiatives.

• Innovation Incentive Program, $100 million—To date, this program has played a critical role in attracting leading research institutes and companies that have expanded innovation-based economic activity, both in their own right and through spin-off generation. Currently, seven research institutes participate in this program and have already created 400 new high-tech, high-wage jobs.

• Quick Action Closing Fund, $25 million—This program enables the state to respond quickly to extraordinary economic opportunities and compete effectively for projects that involve significant capital investment and the creation of high-wage jobs. In Fiscal Year 2008-09, these projects led to the creation or retention of 25,610 jobs at an average annual wage of $51,503.

• Institute for Commercialization of Public Research, $15 million – Established in 2007, the institute serves as a one-stop-shop for investors, entrepreneurs, and corporate partners looking to develop new ventures based on research performed in Florida. The institute showcases technologies and products developed by publicly supported organizations across the state, and commercially viable discoveries are paired with seasoned entrepreneurs and investors to ensure their growth and success, resulting in high-skill, high-wage jobs.

• Film and Entertainment, $15 million—Gov. Crist recommended an increased investment to demonstrate Florida’s strong commitment to retaining and growing its highly valued film and entertainment industry. A recent independent study on Florida’s entertainment industry reported that in 2007 the industry generated $17.9 billion in Gross State Product and provided a total statewide fiscal impact of $29 billion, directly employing approximately 102,000 Floridians with an average wage of $57,700. In Fiscal Year 2008-09, 29 productions spent more than $55.3 million on Florida wages, products and services that met the strict parameters of the program. The 6,434 jobs resulting from these productions put $37.3 million in wages into the pockets of Floridians. An additional $18 million was spent with Florida businesses. Approximately $8.6 million was rebated to these productions, based on their qualified Florida expenditures. On average, for every dollar rebated a certified production on qualified Florida expenditures, over six dollars were spent on Florida wages, products or services.


It was mid-morning and the barn was already bustling with two other horse-riding instructors assisting their students. Dawn Schmertmann gently stroked a white star on her black mare’s nose as the horse lifted his head through the window of his new stall.

Throughout the last year, Dawn and her husband, Greg, have created an oasis under a thick pine and oak canopy inside the North Port Estates. Their stable, TKM Stables, links the North Port community to the horse culture by offering horseback riding adventures along North Port’s pristine creeks and untouched environmental parks.

Just a few miles away, a woman in a bathing suit leaned back in a lawn chair at the banks of Warm Mineral Springs, an internationally known natural spring with temperatures that maintain 87 degrees year round. Visitors travel from around the world to soak in the Springs’ soothing waters.

Inside this 103-square-mile city, treasures exist. From horse stables and natural springs to more than 80 miles of winding canals and a nine-mile strand of the Myakkahatchee Creek, the City of North Port offers visitors, residents, and businesses an abundance of opportunity. Known as a place for families, North Port’s youth and potential have placed this city on Southwest Florida’s map.

“When deciding whether to move to a city, you look at the city’s potential. Does it have the potential to grow? Does it have the potential to be better than what it is?” said Economic Development Manager Allan Lane. “North Port has that potential.”

With a median age of 39 and nearly 10,000 school students, the City of North Port’s youthfulness is defined by the lifestyles of its families. Just 50 years old, North Port is only 20 percent built out. The Southwest Florida city more than doubled its population in four years, making it the fourth fastest growing city in the state of Florida. Its sheer size ranks fourth largest in the state.

While this city’s population has more than doubled since 2002, North Port has been taking strides, both in infrastructure improvements and in aesthetics, to vastly improve the quality of life for its residents.

Roadway improvements have played a critical role in that effort. Since 2007, the City of North Port repaved more than 200 miles of local roadways. In addition, the City of North Port completed improvements along Toledo Blade Boulevard and Sumter Boulevard, two of the city’s signature gateway roadways. The finished roadways include a park-like setting, complete with decorative street lamps, winding sidewalks, park benches, lush landscaping, gazebos, and crossways made with stamped concrete.

The city also is expanding other infrastructure to meet the demands of the residents. Construction of a $23 million wastewater treatment plant expansion, likely the largest construction project the city has ever undertaken, will allow 15,000 new homes and businesses to connect to the public sewer system. The expansion will position this city to provide the utility to any future hospital, hotel chain, university or other commercial venture in North Port’s future.

“People want a movie theater,” said City Utilities Director Cindi Mick. “People want a hospital; they want a place to work close to home. All of these things—if you’re going to encourage the growth of North Port—are going to need water and sewer.”

While North Port continues to make infrastructure improvements, it also is working to raise its profile in the marketplace through a comprehensive branding program. Work to develop the research-based brand started in the fall of 2008 and will be completed sometime in the spring of 2010.

“The program will help further separate North Port from just being a place that residents drive through to get to Venice or Port Charlotte,” said Mindy Tew, executive director of the North Port Area Chamber of Commerce. “I think this is an opportunity to say, ‘We’re here now,’ and put a picture on this place.”

For more information about the City of North Port, visit www.cityofnorthport.com. For information about moving your business to North Port, contact Economic Development Manager Allan Lane at (941) 429-7001 or at alane@cityofnorthport.com.


The St. Joe Company recently announced plans to move its corporate headquarters to its large-scale development project adjacent to the new Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport in Bay County.  The new location, surrounded by some of the company’s most valuable land holdings, will enable St. Joe to build on its real estate and economic development successes in the Northwest Florida region.

St. Joe’s new headquarters will be located within Phase I of the company’s West Bay Sector Plan development near the entrance of the new international airport, which is scheduled to open in May 2010. The new offices will provide the company with a location central to its numerous residential communities and commercial properties under development, as well as company lands slated for new business and development opportunities in the region.

St. Joe will be consolidating offices from Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Port St. Joe and South Walton County into the new location. Construction of the approximately 50,000 square foot Class A multi-tenant office building is scheduled to begin this summer, with relocation of the company’s headquarters and personnel to be completed by the summer of 2011.

“This move is a very important step in the evolution of The St. Joe Company, and we are excited about expanding our relationships with the people of Northwest Florida,” said Britt Greene, president and CEO.  “At the same time, we are very grateful for our 75-year relationship with the City of Jacksonville. There are many friends and supporters in the area that have played an integral part in the growth and success of the company throughout the years. We will remain forever thankful for their contributions and support.”

“The relocation represents a new phase for our company where we will be able to closely align our resources in an area that we have been actively involved in developing for the past 12 years,” continued Greene. “Furthermore, we expect to capitalize on the many significant business and economic development opportunities that we see emerging as the region continues to evolve into one of the nation’s newest business and technology corridors.”

The St. Joe Company is one of Florida’s largest real estate development companies and Northwest Florida’s largest private landowner.