850 Regional News
850 Regional News Originally published in the Apr/Mar 2010 issue of 850 Business Magazine
The Mood of Business
Interesting research shows Florida small business owners are more concerned with keeping their current customers than the rest of U.S. small business owners, according to The Guardian Life Index: What Matters Most to America’s Small Business Owners.
The Guardian Life Index is based on a proprietary 21-point scale (from +10 to -10) and measures the positive and negative intensity of responses to 135 small business issues. Compared to the national findings, which are based on 1,100 respondents, Florida small business owners expressed the greatest difference in the following areas:
Keeping the customers we have from leaving (FL: 6.3 vs. U.S.: 5.6)
Setting my business apart from our competitors (FL: 5.3 vs. U.S.: 4.7)
Our No. 1 goal is making more sales than last year (FL: 4.4 vs. U.S. 2.8)
We devote most of our time to increasing sales (FL: 3.9 vs. U.S. 2.8)
The research also reveals that 52 percent of small business owners in Florida plan to maintain business as usual compared to 54 percent nationwide. Additionally, 32 percent are confidently looking forward to expanding their businesses over the next 12 to 24 months compared to 38 percent nationally.
Source: Guardian Life Insurance Company
“Until the region is further established, we will not keep spending money. I believe at the right time the initiative will be taken off the shelf and re-engaged to help the regional effort.” —Buddy Runnels, chairman of Coastal Vision 3000, on why the organization that successfully launched THE Beach closed its doors. Coastal Vision is credited with helping establish a regional identity for the Panhandle’s beach counties — an important element in bringing Southwest Airlines to the new Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport.
Florida Tourism Numbers for 2009
Total visitors — 80.3 million
Air visitors — 41.4 million (51.5 percent)
Non-air visitors — 39 million (48.5 percent)
Historic Visitor Numbers
1999 — 58.9 million 2003 — 74.6 million 2007 — 84.5 million
2000 — 72.8 million 2004 — 79.7 million 2008 — 84.2 million
2001 — 69.5 million 2005 — 83.6 million 2009 — 80.3 million*
2002 — 73.9 million 2006 — 83.9 million
According to VISIT FLORIDA, comparison of 2009 to prior years is not valid because the agency adopted a new method for estimating visitor numbers. Source: VISIT FLORIDA
Bio-Tech Clusters Slow To Develop
Since 2006, Florida has put nearly a half billion dollars in incentive grants into bringing seven research facilities to Florida. The investment has resulted in less than 800 jobs and for the most part hasn’t yet created the “technology clusters” envisioned when then-Gov. Jeb Bush and legislative leaders in the mid-2000s began pushing for a more high tech future for the state, according to the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability.
“However, experts in the biotechnology industry agree that significant cluster growth often takes decades,” the legislative audit reported. “While many factors related to biotechnology cluster growth are present in the state, such as a collegial and cooperative environment among stakeholders, Florida has limited early stage capital for beginning companies.”
Auditors have recommended that lawmakers consider shifting the focus from bringing firms to the state to providing early state money for startups. The $449 million — matched with another $310 million in public and private funds — has been spent on Burnham, Max Planck and other institutes as part of the state’s Innovation Incentive Program. The state spent $310 million earlier in the decade to lure Scripps Florida here. Source: News Service of Florida
Roadbuilders: Stimulus Provides 21,000 jobs
More than 250 Florida highway projects either under way or completed have been paid for with $768.8 million in federal stimulus money, according to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association. The projects employed 21,391 workers. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act sent $1.35 billion to Florida for highway, bridge and other road-related improvements, adding more than 80 percent to Florida’s federal road building funds for 2009. Another 292 Florida projects have been identified or are slated to be under construction soon.
The federal stimulus money has fostered 55 projects in Northwest Florida totaling more than $42 million. That includes 19 projects worth $17.3 million in the 1st Congressional District (Escambia, Santa Rosa, Holmes, Washington and parts of Okaloosa and Walton counties) and 36 projects worth $25.1 million in the 2nd Congressional District (Bay, Jackson, Calhoun, Gulf, Franklin, Liberty, Gadsden, Taylor, Dixie, Lafayette, Suwannee, Wakulla and parts of Jefferson, Leon, Okaloosa and Walton Counties.)