Ask the Governor: Re-tooling workforce opportunity and construction over troubled waters

Gov. Crist answers head-on questions about workforce innovation, bringing in the automotive industry and beach-front construction issues.

Ask the Governor Interviewed by Linda Kleindienst Originally published in the June/July issue of 850 Magazine

Q: Florida faces declining employment and the inability to envision what the future might be for a work force frozen in the past. What can help the work force re-train and/or re-tool? Gregory Ferris, Ed. D., Regional Director, Paradigm Associates, Tallahassee

A: My administration and the Florida Legislature are focused on education and workforce training (designed to result in) increased hiring, a lower unemployment rate and a renewed and confident workforce. In today’s ever growing, knowledge-based economy, the future of our work force will depend on improving workers’ skills at every level.

My administration is committed to diversifying Florida’s economy by growing and sustaining … knowledge-based industries such as biotechnology, defense, clean technology, and aviation and aerospace. Workforce quality is critical to the success of businesses in these industries. We continue to support (education and workforce training) through investments and policymaking (that will result) in new opportunities for job training, job readiness and, ultimately, job creation.

Florida’s college and university systems are economic engines and resources for strengthening the state’s workforce talent. Florida also has a nationally recognized workforce development system through which Floridians can access employment and training assistance, including scholarships that help cover the cost of training (or retraining) in in-demand occupations. Information on such workforce resources, as well as thousands of employment listings, is available at


Q: I’m interested in what the future holds for Florida in terms of the automotive industry. Has the state any plans to try to attract any automotive manufacturers like Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina have all done? And, will the state be doing anything to promote electric vehicles? Jeffrey N. Ross,, Jacksonville

A: As Florida transitions from an economy that relies on tourism and agriculture to one that fosters the development of high value and high skill industries, we must be strategic in our efforts at recruiting businesses to the state. In the past we have made attempts to lure some of the major automotive manufacturers to Florida, but have been unable to match the financial investment of (other states). However, we do remain committed to developing the advanced manufacturing industry, and are home to a number of automobile parts manufacturers, which serve the supply chain of the major manufacturers.

Regarding electric vehicles, the state submitted an application to the U. S. Department of Energy for a $4.1 million pilot project designed to demonstrate the effectiveness of an innovative off-grid, natural gas fueled electricity generation system that addresses the emerging electric vehicle transportation market. This project will test three geographic areas to demonstrate the effects of varied climate and weather patterns, buying habits, cultural differences and municipal, commercial and consumer recharging needs. Florida would receive six (recharging) stations, including two in Tallahassee. We are awaiting further word from DOE regarding our application.


Q: The Department of Environmental Protection has a rule that prohibits “non-water dependent activity over state waters.” This rule prohibits any commercial activity upon docks, floating platforms, moored vessels or other structures overhanging the water, such as restaurants, lounges and retail. With rules that are already in place these types of businesses pose no harm to the environment or water quality — and would be more than happy to pay lease revenue to the state. Have you and the Cabinet considered a review of these rules and revenue source? Dana C. Matthews, Matthews & Hawkins, Destin

A: Florida’s Constitution sets out … that navigable waters are held in trust for use by the people. Because of the inherent public character of navigable waters, they are not held for purposes of sale into private ownership but instead are held by the state for the use and enjoyment of the public.

Allowing construction of permanent structures on sovereignty submerged lands for private gain such as restaurants, lounges and retail establishments would interfere with the ability of Florida taxpayers and visitors to swim, boat, view and enjoy these navigable waters, thus adversely impacting our economy. (More than 8 million visitors a year contribute $65 billion to the state’s economy.) Lease fees derived from allowing commercial uses are much smaller than the revenue lost in reducing public access to beaches and waterways.

The rule is also in place to provide, to the greatest extent possible, protection of the water quality and the sea grasses that require light to survive. Building large structures over water can lead to degradation of the water quality and provides direct shading that is proven to harm sea grasses. There are no plans to review the rules.

Editor’s Note: Because Gov. Crist is a candidate for the U.S. Senate this fall, this column will be temporarily suspended. Our hope is to restart this feature after a new governor is inaugurated in January 2011.