Proposal reforms incentive funds and recasts state focus to small businesses
Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) today filed two bills, Senate Bills 1110 and 1112, proposing reforms to Florida’s economic development programs. The legislation adopts several oversight provisions over Enterprise Florida, Inc. (EFI) and the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), and establishes new programs focusing on the growth of small businesses and fostering a start-up environment in the state.
“The focus of economic development should be on Florida’s small businesses,” stated Senator Brandes. “Fostering a start-up culture in our state and encouraging small business development will create a better ecosystem where opportunity can thrive. This legislation provides greater oversight and safeguards over our current economic development programs. This bill recasts our focus on new businesses that breathe the entrepreneurial spirit and diversify Florida’s economy.”
The proposal reforms Florida’s economic development programs in several ways. $117 million held in escrow in the Quick Action Closing Fund will be returned to the State Economic Enhancement and Development Fund. Businesses that relocate from the state within 3 years of receiving final incentive payments will be sanctioned, and DEO is prohibited from making material amendments to incentives contracts. Those incentive contracts are limited to 10 years, and capital investments made with incentive money must remain within Florida. The Board of EFI will be reconfigured to incorporate representation of rural economic development interests along with CareerSource Florida. Finally, the President of EFI will be subject to Senate confirmation.
The bill further creates a new Start-Up Florida Grant Program focusing on incubators and small business accelerators. The $50 million annual program provides up to $5 million each year to an eligible incubator recipient for capital spending and $1 million annually for operations funding. Along with the grant program, the bill creates the Small Business Information Center (SBIC) within the Small Business Development Center at the University of West Florida. The SBIC will serve as an information gateway for small businesses to navigate permitting, licensing, and regulation. The SBIC will also serve a mentorship role, linking small businesses to resources including institutions of higher learning and other business resources to aide in their success.