Q&A with Florida Gov. Rick Scott on his bid to steal California jobs

Florida's governor: 'California has elected officials who are not concerned about whether businesses succeed'

In his four years as governor of Florida, Republican Rick Scott has spent a good bit of time trying to recruit businesses from other states.

Now, he's set his sights on California. On Sunday and Monday, Scott talked up Florida's job growth and education strategy at receptions and one-on-one meetings in Los Angeles.

At a Monday luncheon hosted by the Valley Industry & Commerce Assn. at the Warner Center Marriott in Woodland Hills, Scott touted his administration's investments in transportation and ports.

He told the nearly 100 participants that he sees Florida's ports taking advantage of lingering resentment over a months-long labor dispute at West Coast ports as well as the planned expansion of the Panama Canal.

With the 2016 presidential campaign heating up, Scott also briefly talked politics. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton "will be another four years of Barack Obama" if elected, Scott said. The pack of fellow Republicans in contention will have to prove that they can "get our country back to work," he said.

After the luncheon, Scott chatted with The Times. Here is an edited version of that conversation.

Census migration data show a net increase in the number of people moving to California from Florida. Many of those are in high-paid positions. Thoughts?

Let's look at the numbers. There's a book out called "How Money Walks" written by Travis Brown. He's followed annual adjusted gross income from 1992 to 2011. Approximately $100 billion has moved to Florida from all over the country. Number two is Arizona. Where does it come from? It's come from New York; it's come from New Jersey; and it's come from California. California in that time frame has lost $46 billion. Look at California. Home prices are two and a half times the national average. It's very difficult to afford a home here. You've got the highest poverty rate in the United States. We've got a much higher job growth rate than California has. Our policy is less taxes, less regulation, streamlined permitting, put money into education and that's working.

But that doesn't address the question of why more Floridians appear to be moving into California.

If you look at the numbers I just showed you, people are moving to Florida.

Other government data show that when businesses migrate from state to state, the ultimate impact on those economies tends to be quite small. So how could Florida hope to lure enough California companies to really make a difference?

We've won hundreds of competitive projects, in situations where we were competing against other states and even cities and counties to get companies like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman to grow jobs. On top of that, you have 250,000 people who moved to Florida last year, and a lot of those are small-business people. They're saying, "I can do things better in Florida than anywhere else."

But what about critical mass? How many companies would realistically have to move from California to Florida to make a dent in Florida's economy?

My job is to just constantly chip away every day. We've added so many great jobs in four years, and it's never just any one thing you do. It's about finishing projects in Miami and then Jacksonville and then going on trade missions to talk to companies about why they should do business there. And whether we can get more companies like Nestle — who said today that they're going to move all their U.S. shipments to Puerto Rico to Jacksonville ports instead of New Jersey and New York. There are so many great opportunities for Florida, and there's not one thing that would be the tipping point.

How does this campaign compare to your other trade tours, such as in Kentucky or Massachusetts?

They're all different. The opportunities are all different. This has been successful. There's a big opportunity with our ports for a variety of reasons. One, we've made a series of significant investments in our ports; and two, there are the strikes you've had that people are frustrated with; and three, there's a big opportunity because of the expansion of the Panama Canal.

But are the ports jobs in California mobile enough to move across the country?

Those companies are currently shipping through California ports. Now, with what we've done, it's going to be cheaper to ship through a Florida port. You're not going to ship long-term from California all the way to Philadelphia. It's cheaper to ship through the Panama Canal. Shipping by water is cheaper than by rail, which is cheaper than by truck. So we're going to make it easier and faster with more predictability. We're not going to have the strikes y'all have.

You're not the first governor to come to California looking for businesses. Former Gov. Rick Perry from Texas did it in 2013. How does your mission differ from his?

Rick had been my competitor until his term finished. I know Rick called on companies just like I did. We competed on a lot of projects. He was a good competitor. Rick's a very good salesman. He sold Texas very well. When you know you're competing, you get people to start thinking about what you're doing. Out here, when people think about your high taxes and how you're the worst state for regulation and the fact that CEOs say California is the worst state for business 10 years in a row, you know there are going to be a lot of opportunities.

Do you see Gov. Jerry Brown doing the same?

I don't see him as my competitor. I don't see him out trying to win competitive projects. California has elected officials who are not concerned about whether businesses succeed. Successful companies hire people.

OK, thanks very much.

Great. Move to Florida.


Twitter: @tiffhsulatimes

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