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Details on Proposed Economic Development Overhauls Emerge in FL, NV

March 30, 2011

During the campaign trail and in speeches delivered during their first few weeks in office, governors in Florida and Nevada announced plans to overhaul economic development efforts without providing many details on how the new systems would operate. Draft legislation recently was introduced in the respective states, providing some insight on the structure and governance of the proposed agencies.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott wants to create a new Department of Commerce and establish a position of commissioner to report to him directly. The new entity, called Jobs Florida, would have four divisions to address accounting, community development, business development and strategic planning, according to an article in The Tallahassee Democrat. The commissioner would contract with Enterprise Florida, Space Florida and other public-private partnerships, the article states. Additionally, the Department of Community Affairs and the Agency for Workforce Innovation would be eliminated under a draft bill outlining the structure. The restructuring is estimated to save more than $8 million, according to the article.

In his budget proposal unveiled earlier this year, Gov. Scott requested $304 million in FY12 and $504 million in FY13 for economic development tools. The governor did not outline how this funding would be appropriated, however. A recent article in The Palm Beach Post reported that Gov. Scott is seeking exclusive power to dole out economic development tax dollars to businesses, but both the House and Senate versions of the budget include far less in spending authority for Gov. Scott's economic development plans.

In Nevada, a bill establishing a cabinet-level agency to direct and oversee three regional economic authorities has support from both Democratic Gov. Brian Sandoval and Republican leaders, reports The Nevada Appeal. AB 449 would designate a regional organization for economic development for each of the northern, southern and rural regions, which would be eligible to receive grants from a proposed Catalyst Fund. The bill would transfer $10 million to the Catalyst Fund from the Abandoned Property Trust Account for business recruitment and retention. Gov. Sandoval proposed creation of the fund in his budget earlier this year (see the Feb. 2, 2011 issue of the Digest).

The bill also would create a Knowledge Fund to recruit and hire faculty and teams to conduct research in science and technology. There is no mention of how much funding is sought for the initiative or where the funding would come from, however.

Florida, Nevadastate tbed, state budget, regions, r&d, higher ed