Manufacturing boom happening in Florida?

Industry jobs decrease nationally, rise in Sunshine State

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - For the first time in three years, national unemployment is below 8 percent. The U.S. added 114,000 jobs last month, but during the same time period, 16,000 manufacturing jobs were lost.

In the Sunshine State, the industry is doing a little better, and a few changes in state policy could position Florida for a manufacturing boom.

Verdicorp builds renewable energy generators and air compressors that convert heat waste and exhaust into electricity.

The one-of-a-kind green technology was developed in Florida less than three years ago. Already companies in Germany and Australia are demanding the products.

"We are a product made in the United States, and we are going to stay in the United States building this product, and we are going to ship our product to the world," Verdicorp manager Neely Lewis said.

Florida is one of the few states in the U.S. actually adding manufacturing jobs, albeit slowly. In the last year, the industry grew from 310,000 jobs to 312,000.

Eighteen people work at Verdicorp, and there are plans for it to expand.

"We'll have somewhere around 150 to 250 people working full-time," Lewis said. "Those are going to be very good-paying jobs."

The recession has slowed Vericorp growth, but so has state taxes and regulation.

According to a Florida TaxWatch report, the state could be doing more to attract manufacturing jobs, such as by eliminating the sales taxes on machinery and equipment.

Rob Weissert, vice president for research for Florida TaxWatch Research Institute, says Florida's location and 14 seaports make it prime for manufacturers, but the state's tax code is blocking expansion.

"The way that we tax the key inputs to manufacturing actually discourages investment in manufacturing," Weissert said.

The average manufacturing job pays $52,000, about $10,000 more than the average Florida salary. Weissert said those are the kind of wages that can speed up Florida's economic recovery.

Florida TaxWatch is also suggesting the state eliminate the tangible property tax, which is an annual tax businesses pay on everything from desks and chairs to machines and equipment.

Amendment 10 on the ballot this November would increase the tangible property tax exemption from $25,000 to $50,000. It would also give the Legislature authority to reduce it even more.

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