Gov.-elect Scott visits Jacksonville, sees job-creating potential

He says he’ll take the lead in getting business to Florida.

Gov.-elect Rick Scott said Tuesday he stands ready to aggressively use financial incentives when wooing businesses to Florida, provided it generates a “return to the taxpayers” in jobs.

Scott visited Cecil Airport, formerly known as Cecil Field, as part of a five-day swing through the state about his goal of adding 700,000 jobs in Florida over seven years.

“My whole focus is how do we get the state back to work,” Scott said during a town hall meeting in an aviation hangar used by Flightstar, a fast-growing Jacksonville airplane repair company.

Scott said making Florida attractive to businesses requires steps such as cutting property taxes and corporate taxes, ensuring faster decisions by state regulators, and fostering a business-friendly attitude by state officials. He said he will take a lead role in meeting with companies as Florida competes with other states and internationally for businesses deciding where they will locate.

In an interview after the town hall meeting, Scott said he would favor financial incentive packages to help convince businesses to pick Florida.

“I’m going to be very aggressive as long as there is a return to the taxpayer,” he said.

He said that would not contradict his overall thrust of making Florida more attractive by cutting state government spending. He said the justification for financial incentives would be measured in terms of jobs, economic activity, and growth of the tax base. He compared it to a business making investments that boost shareholder value.

Cecil Commerce Center, which contains Cecil Airport, has been in the running for some large-scale manufacturing plants for automobiles and airplanes, only to fall short when other Southeast states offered companies bigger incentive packages than Florida offers. For instance, Cecil Commerce Center made the shortlist when Spirit Aerosystems sought a site for an aircraft component manufacturing plant, but North Carolina was able to offer more incentives that tipped the scales.

Jacksonville’s port also competes with Southeast states for a bigger share of global cargo shipments. Jacksonville Port Authority officials have said Savannah, Ga., benefits from its port getting more financial support from the state than Jacksonville gets from Florida government.

Scott pointed to Cecil Commerce Center and Jacksonville’s port as two areas that could generate jobs.

Scott won the governor’s race on a slogan of “Let’s Get to Work.”

He said a big part of making Florida an affordable place for businesses will be to cut state government spending. He said that will be controversial but necessary.

“There’s no free money,” he said.