By Jim Turner
News Service of Florida
Tallahassee – Florida’s business-recruitment agency approved a spending plan Thursday that will increase funding for international marketing as officials try to revive the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an online meeting, the Enterprise Florida board of directors voted without opposition to support a $23.1 million spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1, up from nearly $21.3 million in the current year. The increase includes carrying over unspent money from the current year.
“The importance of economic development, the critical role that Enterprise Florida plays, as well as our partners like Visit Florida, are more important now than they’ve ever have been,” said board Vice Chairman Joe York, referring to the Visit Florida tourism-marketing agency.
The vote came on the same day that the U.S. Department of Labor issued a report showing an estimated 110,520 first-time unemployment claims filed last week in Florida. That continued weeks of heavy job losses – though it was an improvement over the 207,707 first-time claims during the week the ended May 30.
The new budget for Enterprise Florida, a public-private agency, includes $18 million from the Legislature. That includes $16 million for general operations and a separate $2 million allocation for the Florida Defense Support Task Force.
The spending plan includes $2.18 million for international trade events, up from $1.58 million in the current year, when travel has been curtailed since March because of the pandemic. Another $1 million is designated toward a virtual program aimed at marketing to overseas companies, down from $1.225 million in the current year.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of opportunities once the travel section starts to ease and once business gets back to normal,” said board member Holly Borgmann, who is vice president of government affairs at ADT home security service in Boca Raton.
Last week, Enterprise Florida chief operating officer Robert Schlotman told members of the Finance & Compensation Committee that the agency intends to ramp up marketing and business recruitment during the coming year to try to offset the state’s record job losses from the pandemic.
Part of those efforts include plans to send a contingent to the Medica Trade Fair in November in Dusseldorf, Germany, if international virus-related travel restrictions are eased, with return trips to Europe in 2021.
“If we can pull off the first one successfully, we will certainly try and go for a second one before the end of the fiscal year,” Schlotman said.
“Our plan and the development of this budget is based on us starting to travel again in the October, November, December timeframe and for the next six months after that,” he added.
Medica is focused on health care, including medical technology, electromedicine, hospital and surgery equipment, and laboratory equipment.
The industry-specific international event spending is separate from another $2.04 million – the same as in the current year – for the agency’s contracted “foreign offices” in Brazil, Canada, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Israel, Spain, South Africa, Ireland, France and Southeast Asia.
The agency is relocating the Southeast Asia office from Hong Kong to Singapore.