Gov. Rick Scott celebrates new Tampa business, unemployment still up
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08/17/12 Janelle Irwin
WMNF Drive-Time News Friday | Listen to this entire show:

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Governor Rick Scott and StreetLinks CEO Steve Haslam at a press event announcing 190 new jobs.


photo by Janelle Irwin

Despite a jump in state unemployment last month, Governor Rick Scott announced 190 new jobs in Tampa this morning. The company StreetLinks moved to the Sunshine State because Florida offered them the best incentives.

Governor Scott considers himself the jobs governor. So when a company decides to move from Indiana to Florida he uses it to promote policies some people call corporate welfare.

“We’ve reduced business taxes, we’ve reduced property tax, business tax. We have a low business tax as we all know, no income tax – we’re a right to work state – but we’ve reduced the business tax for two thirds of the companies that were paying it 18-months ago. We’ve cut property taxes over $200 million. We’ve cut out 1700 state regulations.”

StreetLinks is contracted by companies in the lending industry to help with appraisals and loan servicing. Florida Secretary of Commerce Gray Swoope said mortgage and banking companies were hit hardest when the economy tanked.

“We are the third largest state in number of jobs in financial services and as you know, that sector was hit pretty hard in 2008. We’re seeing it come back, but we’re seeing companies make choices in where it comes back. Do they choose in our state? Do they choose Tampa? Do they choose Hillsborough County or do they choose a location in the mid-west or the northeast?

StreetLinks moved to Florida last year because the state offered what they call a more business-friendly environment than their former base in Indianapolis. The company didn’t release specifics on what exactly made Tampa so attractive, but Swoope credited the financial sector’s revival in Florida to Governor Scott.

“Governor Scott, in removing job-killing rules and regulations, is making and helping this sector come back.”

Even when WMNF asked about the tax incentives, StreetLinks wouldn’t say how much they were. Leslie Rubin, an economic incentives strategist who helped the company negotiate the move, said whatever tax incentives StreetLinks received wasn’t the entire basis for their decision.

“It will influence a decision; it will not make the decision. Labor force, location, those are still primary in any corporate culture when they’re doing site location analysis. So when you look at a situation, what did it do? It helps them look at a faster return on investment.”

StreetLinks opened a 77,000 square foot office in NetPark Tampa Bay on East Hillsborough Avenue. The 190 jobs the company provides for Tampa Bay area residents are mostly customer service-oriented positions. They pay anywhere from 13.50 to 19.50 an hour. But Steve Haslam, the company’s chief executive officer, said many of those new employees will be promoted within the company.

“There is not one manager, team lead or executive in StreetLinks that didn’t start on the front lines of this company. The people that we have in leadership positions were either the original owners of a very small company when we bought it and everyone else when you walk through our facilities that is in any form of management position started at the front line of this company. We have people that started here at $13.50 an hour that make 50, 60, 70 thousands dollars and more.”

And Haslam said he expects 300 more jobs to open in the coming years as the company continues to expand.

“And we’ve grown from literally no clients in January of 2009 – we had no clients because we blew up an old business model and we started over and today we have about 500 major clients that have over 2,000 lending locations across the country.”

Amid news that companies are slowly but surely trickling into the state, Republican Governor Scott continues to be optimistic about Florida’s job growth. That’s landed him in the hot seat with his own party that argues his positive spin on Florida’s economic growth could help President Barack Obama win Florida’s 29 electoral votes in November.

“But you know what, we need a federal partner. We can’t have the highest corporate tax rates in the developed world. We can’t have more regulation than the rest of the world. We can’t have an anti-business attitude and expect for jobs to flock to America. So, while we’re doing the right things in Florida we need a federal partner that’s going to reduce taxes, reduce regulations, streamline the permitting process and make decisions faster.”

Scott has said he will continue to push business friendly policies in order to reach his goal of creating 700,000 more jobs in Florida.

“Even though unemployment’s come down, even though we’ve generated a lot of jobs in the last 18-months, we still have almost 800,000 people out of work – we’ll see what the numbers are again at 10 o’clock. So, there’s still a lot of work to do.”

When the July jobs report came in this morning, it actually showed that Florida’s unemployment rate had risen for the first time in months from 8.6% to 8.8%. That’s higher than the national average of 8.3%.



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