Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Papa was a Rolling Stone

There was an interesting piece in the paper this morning the timber of which was for the most part doom and gloom for Florida. The piece was written by Dave Hodges and was centered on a Sunshine State Survey, devised by USF professor Susan McManus. 1220 Floridians were surveyed 45% of whom said that we Floridians were worse off than we were one year ago. 52% identified the economy as our overall greatest concern. 55% said that the state was doing a poor job of creating new jobs. 75% said that the government was doing a poor job placing blame on our elected officials. Nearly 25% of Floridians were considering leaving the state.

I guess my question is if you leave, where on earth are you going to go? Florida is doing poorly because the nation is doing poorly. Remember that the backbone of Florida's economy has for a long, long time been tourism. Most of us did not need professor McManus to discover that for us. Think about this. We do not have a state income tax. How many states can say that? If you leave Tallahassee and drive north 30miles and live in Cairo, GA then abra cadabra you get to pay an additional 6% to the state of Georgia out of your paycheck. If you make $50k a year then you are out $3000just by moving 30 miles away.

When I was being raised, I had lived at 16 addresses by the time I was 18 years of age. The old Tempatations said it about as well as it could be uttered in their song, Papa was a rolling stone. I can tell you the answer is not in moving around. I cannot think of a single move that solved any problems for my clan. I moved to Tallahassee in 1972. I have had 4 addresses since the time I married in 1973. We have had the same address for the last 20 years and before that 16 at the same address.

I served on a task force in the mid '90s as invited by the Governor's office through Enterprise Florida. I met half a dozen times in some nice areas across the state. The gist of this endeavor was to brain storm what industry and academia could do to foster job growth in Florida. I represented a Fortune 400 company ergo Big Business.

I ultimately found that the outcomes of this task force were pretty much set before meetings began. Most at the table represented the brain trust of various universities. Researchers were looking to synergize resources surrounding some discovery that they had made in a lab from UF, USF, Nova, FSU. You get the picture. The effort ultimately ended up in the creation of the Scripps endeavour on the I-4 corridor. The task force was not terribly interested in attracting industry to the state via tax concessions, etc. Tallahassee has often been a great example of that mentality.

I remember years ago that the Miller brewing company was looking to bring a bottling plant to either Tallahassee or Albany, GA. Albany ended up getting the plant because Tallahassee was really quite lukewarm about laying their ears back and aggressively luring that company. Incidentally, that plant brought 5,000 jobs to Albany. Good jobs. I remember I had 2 or 3 clients I called on back then who were pharmacists. They quit pharmacy and went over and got a job at the new plant because it was a better deal for them.

Florida has come to this point in their economy due to becoming fat and complacent because we have always had money coming in through the pockets of out of towners. Property taxes have been the gold rush of the '90s. Property taxes went up 100% during the mid-90's in 5 years. Tallahassee has led the charge. On the comparative scale, Leon county is one of the most expensive places in this state to live.

Take a look at the economy of let's just say Utah for example. They have actually grown their economy during the recession. Illinois is another example. The reason? I would say the response is growing where you are planted and being creative and industrious.

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