February 16, 2015
Gov. Touts Record Florida Tourism Numbers, Jobs
By Eric Glasser
Tampa, FL -- If you think the local beaches have been packed, the theme park lines too long, and the restaurant reservations nearly impossible to get... you're right.
Florida Governor Rick Scott has announced 2014 was a record year for tourism in Florida, with nearly 100 million people visiting the Sunshine State.
And that, says the governor, means jobs.
But critics ask if they are they the kinds of jobs people really need, and whether quantity is translating into quality.
"That's a lot of jobs," said Governor Scott of the 97.3 million visitors from last year. "Every 85 tourists is another job. This last year, a 4% increase."
But the vast number of jobs being created by tourism, say critics, are in the service industry. Those are often low-paying positions which, according to a recent study by PNC Financial Services, have led to "stagnant" wages. They've actually been a drag on the Bay area's economy.
Scott says millions of dollars in corporate tax breaks have lured some better jobs to Florida. He also says increased funding for education will help create better-skilled jobs.
That said, "there is still a lot of work to do," conceded the Governor.
Ironically, Gov. Scott introduced Tampa International Airport worker Tim Abbott as a shining example of how tourism creates jobs. Abbott was laid off in the economic downturn and took a part-time job at TIA in 2013. Now, he's working full time.
But what wasn't mentioned is that Abbott, like so many who are among the now-underemployed, doesn't quite make what he used to. He was smart enough to make investments in his last job, he says, which has kept him and his family afloat.
"It's close enough that it doesn't matter," said Abbott, "But it's not exactly the same."
St. Pete City Councilman, Wengay Newton, attending Monday's announcement, says the creation of jobs is good news.
However, "people have to have money to take care of their families. Jobs are great, but if you have to work two or three of them, then what?" asks Newton. "I'm not going to sway away from jobs, because a job entails that someone is going to get a paycheck and eat versus being homeless. However, you want to be able to sustain and be able to move up."
Governor Scott says he'd like to see the state top 100 million visitors in 2015.
Florida's warmer weather and the lowest level of crime in 43 years, says Scott, are big influences in convincing more people to move themselves and perhaps their businesses here.