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Scott must focus on Florida businesses

caines | 5/31/2012, 5:30 a.m.

When I first heard that Governor Rick Scott had taken five international trips around the world, I got nervous. With Florida cutting back on everything, I thought, who is paying for these trips? I knew that these trips were expensive and there was no way that the Florida Legislature would approve funding for these trips. As I did my research, I found out that Enterprise Florida pays the bills for these trips. There also is a charge to the different companies that go on the trips, and their cost is $1,000 per person to register, plus travel and lodging. Now I was feeling pretty good, because I felt that Enterprise Florida was the economic development organization for the State of Florida, and the financing of these trips were not being funded by taxpayers money. Then I realized that Enterprise Florida was a public-private partnership, and they will receive $16 million dollars from the Florida Legislature. This state organization has also funneled millions dollars of taxpayers money into private businesses and the information is kept secret from the public. There is a 61-member board and many of the companies that sit on the board have benefited from the large incentive packages. Integrity Florida is a watchdog organization in the state that is accusing Enterprise Florida of having conflicts of interest and secrecy. Last year, state data showed that Florida has signed incentives contracts worth $1.7 billion since 1995, with businesses promising to create 225,000 jobs. In reality, the companies created only about a third of those jobs. The question becomes, What happened to all the money? Florida lawmakers are beginning to ask for more information and while Enterprise Florida released a report, but the numbers were not clear. Scott, who is an appointed member on the Enterprise board, and on the executive committee said, Transparency is key, but confidentiality is a crucial part of the business world. The governor has taken five international trade missions to Panama, Israel, Brazil, Canada, and most recently to Spain. He takes a delegation of business and political leaders and they have discussions with the political leaders of other countries, hoping to entice them and their companies to do business in Florida. It is very difficult to establish if these missions are benefiting Floridians and if foreign companies reinvest their profits back in the state of Florida. Many minority organizations believe that a portion of the money spent on incentive packages, should be directed to low-income communities. Florida needs to invest at home and provide start-up capital for innovative companies and organizations in their own communities. Roger Caldwell is the CEO of On Point Media Group in Orlando.By Roger CaldwellMiami Times contributor, jet38@bellsouth.net