85ºF

Enterprise Florida director unhappy about funding

Bill Johnson apologizes for 'shameful' remark

photo

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Enterprise Florida officials said having cash in the bank is a sign to companies that the state is serious about the promises it makes. Lawmakers are also considering telling the development agency to partner with tourism officials to promote the state.

Enterprise Florida president and CEO, Bill Johnson, was on the proverbial hot seat. Back in June, he called lawmakers shameful when he was unhappy about his level of funding. It was clear they hadn't forgotten.

"The rhetoric on this whole issue needs to be lowered," Sen. Jack Latvala said.

"I do know some of my comments have offended, and I apologize for that," Johnson said. "I'm very passionate about what we are doing."

Enterprise Florida, which is chaired by the governor, wants $85 million more from lawmakers.

Even if the state closed on every project they are considering "hot," it would only cost $44 million. They've got $118 million in the bank.

Some of the $118 million been promised to corporations who have yet to live up to their promise to create jobs. Lawmakers confronted the CEO over why he needs so much more when he has so much in the bank.

"Historically, you've never spent more than $19 million in a year, so why do we have an $80 million request when you have money in the bank?" Sen. Nancy Detert asked.

During the hour-and-a-half meeting, Johnson was never able to fully justify the need for more money.

"I want to see specifically: what company, how much did we give them and what's the average salary?" Detert said.

The agency also claims jobs its brought to Florida pay an average $59,000 a year, but it offered no backup as proof.