Secretary Jamal Sowell Outlines Accomplishments in 2020, Goals for 2021
Florida Secretary of Commerce Jamal Sowell, president & CEO of Enterprise Florida, Inc. (EFI), outlined the following significant accomplishments and initiatives undertaken during 2020, as well as an outline of efforts to come in 2021. The state’s primary economic development organization is touting a bold message of recovery and economic optimism led by Governor Ron DeSantis, chairman of the EFI Board of Directors.
“Florida’s economy was blindsided by a sudden recession and prolonged disruptions to supply chains because of COVID-19,” said Secretary Sowell. “But jobs are coming back, commerce is on the uptick and Enterprise Florida is in lockstep with Governor DeSantis’s bold mission to retake the high ground of prosperity for all corners of Florida.”
As communities recover from the COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts, economic development and the importance of diversifying and expanding the state’s economy are paramount.
SUPPORTING FLORIDA’S BUSINESS COMMUNITY DURING COVID-19
- EFI pivoted operations to focus on assisting manufacturers supplying PPE, medical devices and research to aid the response and recovery effort.
- Secretary Sowell participated in Governor DeSantis’ Reopening Task Force and engaged dozens of Florida businesses to gauge needs, challenges and opportunities.
- EFI supported the ESF-18 Business, Industry and Economic Stabilization function at the State Emergency Operations Center.
- EFI conducted regional calls with stakeholders across the state to identify ideas for long-range economic recovery and continues to map these opportunities with follow-up conversations.
- EFI suspended initial fees for its Microfinance Loan Guarantee Program to support Florida’s small business community impacted by COVID-19.
REACHING INTERNATIONAL MARKETS FROM HOME
- 27 Florida companies were recruited to attend the Arab Health 2020 trade show in Dubai. The companies reported $33.2 million in actual and expected export sales.
- 11 Florida companies were recruited to participate in the Singapore Airshow 2020, reporting $16.2 million in actual and expected export sales.
- EFI led an export sales mission to Ghana in February with 11 Florida companies for matchmaking and to lay the foundation for future opportunities.
- EFI launched a Virtual Trade Show Grants Program to allow companies to identify international clients and generate new export opportunities. Traditional international trade shows are being temporarily replaced by virtual events to promote safe worldwide business opportunities.
- EFI created the Virtual Business Matchmaking Service to assist Florida companies doing business overseas as international travel is restricted. The program is facilitated in partnership with the U.S. Department of Commerce and has been expanded to 18 countries.
- EFI recruited and facilitated 18 Florida businesses to participate in the Virtual Trade Show of the Americas organized by the American Chamber of Commerce in Colombia generating $7.2 million in reported export sales.
- EFI partnered with the Florida Ports Council to showcase export opportunities available to Florida-based businesses through the state’s network of 15 public seaports in a virtual webinar, “Florida Seaports: Focused on the Future”.
- EFI announced that Florida will be the first state in the nation to host a virtual international trade show, scheduled for March 2021. The Florida International Trade Expo will offer Florida-based companies the opportunity to showcase products and services to thousands of participants from across the globe in a virtual format.
- EFI will renew efforts to support small and medium sized businesses with a portfolio of grant options to help overcome the regulatory and functional hurdles of international exporting, including export marketing grants, website localization grants and international registration grants.
PROMOTING FLORIDA AS ‘#1 JOB CREATION DESTINATION’
- In February, Governor DeSantis awarded $3.6 million from the Job Growth Grant Fund to Florida State College and St. Johns River State College to fund the Northeast Florida FinTech Initiative, providing training and certifications in the financial technology sector, a key priority sector for EFI.
- In March, EFI and its statewide partners hosted business decision-makers and site-selection consultants from across the country in Orlando to showcase Florida as the premier pro-business state in the nation, and to outline current project wins and industry growth in the state.
- Prior to the expiration of the successful and highly utilized Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund program on June 30, EFI established 115 business and expansion projects during FY 19-20, projected to create and/or retain 19,028 private sector jobs during one of the most challenging years since the organization’s inception.
- In July, Governor DeSantis signed House Bill 1391 into law, a policy priority he first outlined in September 2019 to create a fin-tech “sandbox” in Florida, offering a regulatory environment to test products without the full constraint of mainstream financial regulations while still protecting consumers.
- Among projects with which EFI engaged this year:
- Scotlynn USA, a transportation and logistics subsidiary of Canada-based Scotlynn Commodities, opened a new U.S. headquarters in Fort Myers.
- Aerion, a supersonic aviation manufacturer announced it will relocate to Melbourne from Nevada, creating 675 jobs and a $300 million capital investment by 2025.
- Global IT consulting firm Synergy Technologies will add 300 new jobs in downtown Jacksonville with a major expansion.
- London-based insurance market Lloyd’s of London expanded to Miami this year as did investment firm Aberdeen Standard Investments
- SIMCOM International, a pilot and maintenance training firm, announced it would expand its Orlando footprint with a new $109 million worldwide headquarters and training facility, creating 50 jobs over two years.
- Coastal Forest Resources, a plywood/lumber manufacturer in Gadsden County has announced an upgrade to equipment at its Havana location, adding jobs and retaining several hundred more.
- Leonardo, through AgustaWestland Philadelphia Corp., will be creating nearly 50 new jobs in Northwest Florida. The firm will construct a 100,000 sq. ft. facility at the Whiting Aviation Park in Milton to support Navy training helicopters.
- The EFI marketing team promoted Florida as a premier business state to business decision-makers around the world through its Florida – The Future is Here campaign. The campaign generated more than 115 million impressions worldwide last fiscal year, despite being temporarily halted during the pandemic. The campaign appeared in digital and print outlets including:
- Chief Executive
- Financial Times
- Florida Trend
- Global Finance
- Site Selection
- United Airlines Hemispheres
- Wall Street Journal
- EFI will unveil a fresh, new marketing campaign next year. The campaign will target business recruitment and advertise the state’s competitive costs, large talent pool, comprehensive infrastructure, global connectivity, huge market, and low tax burden as key drivers for broad-based business success.
- EFI is undertaking a ground-up redesign of its website set to launch in 2021. The new website will include an improved look and feel, navigation, and offer simplified access to the information that each of our distinct target audiences require.
ATTRACTING FLORIDA OPPORTUNITY ZONE INVESTMENT
- EFI worked with communities to bring investment to the 427 Qualified Opportunity Zones located in every county of Florida, from the Panhandle to the Keys.
- EFI partnered to host Governor DeSantis and the Trump Administration in an opportunity zone forum in Melbourne in January to facilitate visioning for future investment.
- Governor DeSantis’s Bolder, Brighter, Better Future FY 20-21 budget recommendations to the Florida Legislature included $250,000 to market and highlight Florida’s zones.
- EFI engaged outside consultants to create a strategic business and marketing plan to promote a Florida Opportunity Zone Program
- EFI enhanced its popular Find It Florida! property database tool to allow investors and stakeholders to conduct property searches and defined mapping of Qualified Opportunity Zones alongside dozens of additional measures and overlay functions.
- EFI will launch its Florida Opportunity Zone Program strategic plan in early 2021. The program will outline EFI’s involvement with Opportunity Zones, identify best practices for local government involvement, investor matchmaking and other long-term management strategies for community success.
SUPPORTING MINORITY & SMALL BUSINESSES
- EFI appointed a Director of Minority, Small Business Entrepreneurship and Capital.
- EFI signed a Strategic Alliance Memorandum with the U.S. Small Business Administration to ensure seamless support for entrepreneurs and small businesses in Florida.
- EFI will host the ‘Kreyol Pale, Kreyol Konprann’ Haitian Business Leaders Virtual Summit in early 2021 to engage and support Haitian American business owners around the state.
- Secretary Sowell will conduct a special “100 Conversations in 100 Days” initiative focused on one-on-one conversations with minority business owners around Florida.
EMPOWERING RURAL FLORIDA
- EFI announced its new Rural Expansion Toolkit which includes an expanded offering of grant opportunities in marketing & training, consulting services and site preparedness to local rural communities across Florida.
- EFI appointed a Director of Rural and Agriculture Development to cultivate business development opportunities in Florida’s rural counties and coordinate with state and local partners.
- EFI will begin distributing rural grant funds in January 2021.
- Secretary Sowell will conduct regional rural roundtables in 2021 to ensure all communities have representation in the economic development process.
SUPPORTING MILITARY BASES, FAMILIES & MISSIONS
- The 2020 Florida Military and Defense Economic Impact Study, commissioned by EFI and the Florida Defense Support Task Force (FDSTF), and released in January, determined that Florida’s military and defense sectors have a $95 billion annual economic impact on the state.
- Governor DeSantis and the FDSTF awarded $722,000 in FY 19-20 out-of-cycle grants in May and $1.25 million in FY 20-21 cycle grants in November to local communities working to protect military installations around the state.
- In October, President Donald Trump issued an executive order extending the moratorium on offshore oil drilling on Florida’s Atlantic and Gulf coasts, affirming a priority of Governor DeSantis, the Florida Defense Alliance and the FDSTF to prevent drilling from disrupting missions in the military’s Joint Gulf Range Complex.
- EFI will facilitate a meeting of the state’s military base commanders in early 2021 to garner feedback to assist Florida’s bases and promote future collaboration.
- EFI will publish the newest edition of the Florida Military-Friendly Guide, outlining the ways Florida supports military service members and their families through public policy. Current edition is found here.
GETTING FLORIDA ‘BACK IN THE GAME’
- In February, the Florida Sports Foundation (FSF) supported the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee as it facilitated Super Bowl LIV and its 62,000-plus attendees.
- Despite having to end 12 days early and cancel 86 games in the spring, the Florida Grapefruit League, sponsored by FSF, attracted nearly 883,000 fans attending 199 games for an average of nearly 6,000 fans per game.
- The FSF conducted the 2020 Florida Senior Games in multiple locations throughout Central Florida from December 5-13, attracting thousands of participants and volunteers.
- In June, Governor DeSantis, the FSF and the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), announced that AAU Junior Olympics and the Sunshine State Games, an Olympic-style festival for Floridians of all ages organized by the FSF, would be played alongside one another in Melbourne in July. The combined games resulted in 24,417 participants and families attending.
- Since July 2020, the FSF has awarded a total of 92 grants totaling $1,484,045 with an anticipated economic impact of $292,633,750.
- The FSF continues to champion Florida as a destination for sporting events in view of COVID-19 restrictions elsewhere in the nation.
- The FSF is working closely with the Tampa Bay Super Bowl LV Host committee in Tampa to facilitate Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium in February 2021.
- The FSF is working closely with the Orange Bowl Committee as it prepares to host the 2021 College Football Playoff at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens on January 11, 2021.
“Enterprise Florida remains laser-focused on its mission to expand and diversify the state’s economy through job creation,” said Holly Borgmann, vice-chairman of the Enterprise Florida Board of Directors. “Together with our Governor, the chairman of the EFI Board, we can achieve the kind of success that is measured in jobs created, businesses started, people empowered, and dreams fulfilled.”
Enterprise Florida, Inc. (EFI) is a partnership between Florida’s businesses and government leaders and is the principal economic development organization for the state. EFI facilitates job growth through recruitment and retention; and small business growth through international trade and exporting programs. EFI also facilitates the Florida Sports Foundation, the Florida Defense Alliance and the Florida Defense Support Task Force.