(Graphic: Beach Peanuts)
Forbes came out with it's Best Places For Business list this week, but if you're looking for a city in Florida on it you'll have to dig. Florida doesn't show up until you reach number 101 with Gainesville. The Tampa, St. Petersburg area comes in at 111, followed by Orlando at 119, and Miami at 181. (Full list here.)
But hey, several cities in Texas fare much better, so maybe while unemployed Floridians pound the pavement in the sweltering heat looking for jobs and unemployment benefits that don't exist, Rick Scott and his good old boy rival Rick Perry can have another pie-off and a hearty chuckle over the numbers.
That celebration will have to wait a few days though, because Rick Scott is about to head out of town on yet another taxpayer funded vacation in Europe where he'll attend the Farnborough International Airshow "to attract business" wink, wink.
That should go well. Especially if he hands out more of those incentives while he's there, since that's worked like gangbusters thus far.
If you’re looking for a job in Florida, you need to prove to the state that you’re really trying or you could lose your unemployment check — up to $275 per week.
But if you’re a company, and you’ve won a grant from Florida’s fastest-growing jobs incentive fund, you can collect millions of dollars in public money up front, often before you make the first hire.
You also can claim later that your firm is having problems creating the jobs and buy time to fulfill your end of the bargain by renegotiating your contract.
And in the end, odds are almost even that you won’t deliver on your promises anyway.
Companies such as MetLife in Tampa, Piper Aircraft in Vero Beach and Redpine Healthcare Technologies in the Panhandle have even missed their job-creation marks and made no moves to return the grants they’ve received.
The recession hurt companies’ ability to create jobs, but the economy’s swift decline also shows the perils of gambling public money on the riskiest of incentive programs, known as the Quick Action Closing Fund.
A three-month investigation by The Tampa Tribune shows at least four in every 10 companies that won grants from the fund through the end of the state’s 2011 fiscal year have failed to meet their obligations — some slightly, others by wide margins.
You won’t find these numbers in the official state report to lawmakers.
Enterprise Florida, the state’s chief economic development agency, paints a rosier picture, concluding Florida is exceeding its job-creation goals. But the Tribune also discovered that the agency’s report didn’t count any of its failures. (Read more here.)
Somehow I doubt the subject of our numbers on the Forbes list will come up as a topic of conversation.