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Florida Gov. Rick Scott visits California to lure away businesses

Florida Gov. Rick Scott comes to California eyeing local businesses, shippers

Florida Gov. Rick Scott swung through Los Angeles on Monday as part of a mission to lure California businesses across the country to the Sunshine State.

Scott arrived Sunday and has been traveling throughout Southern California, touting Florida’s job growth and tax cuts during his four-year tenure.

At a Monday luncheon in Woodland Hills, he told a group of about 100 business representatives about his efforts to “drive down the cost of doing business.”

“The elected officials don't get it, they don't get that you can't regulate everything out there,” Scott said at a meeting of the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn. “You can't tax everything out there and expect people to prosper...that's not the way you build an economy.”

Scott seized on the different tax structure in Florida -- no state income tax and lower gas and capital gains taxes -- as reasons to consider relocating.

“You have more taxes than I can imagine getting rid of," Scott said.

One of the Florida governor’s main goals is to boost shipping volumes to Florida’s ports, seizing on a labor dispute earlier this year that congested ports along the West Coast.

Scott sent letters on March 12 to shipping companies describing $850 million in state funding to Florida ports during his administration, and what he said were record investments in the state’s transportation network.

"We should be the shipping capital of the world,” Scott said Monday. “We can get things to market faster and we don't have the problems you have with [labor]."

A spokesman for California Gov. Jerry Brown said he could “certainly understand why our friend from Florida is interested in visiting the Golden State.”

“Our budget is balanced, our credit rating is up and we created more jobs than any other state last year,” the spokesman, Evan Westrup, said in a statement. “As one of the 60 million tourists expected to visit California this year, we hope the governor’s stay is both enjoyable and educational.”

Scott’s jaunt out West is not the first by a Republican governor targeting California businesses. His trip follows a series of attention-grabbing visits by former Texas Gov. Rick Perry over the last two years.

During a visit last June, Perry showed up in Sacramento driving a Tesla Model S sedan -- part of an effort to convince Tesla Motors to build a battery plant in the Lone Star state. Tesla eventually decided to build the plant in Nevada.

Perry also took credit for luring Toyota Motor Co.’s U.S. headquarters from Torrance to a suburb of Dallas. But a Toyota executive said the move was part of a longer-term strategic decision to be closer to the company’s manufacturing base in the South.

The efforts by Scott and Perry are the latest examples of a decades-long history of skirmishes waged among states to attract high-profile businesses -- often using tax incentives.

While political leaders like to tout corporate re-locations, economic data show that interstate business moves account for a tiny fraction of any state’s economy. A 2010 report from the Public Policy Institute of California found that the net loss of jobs to other states from 1992 to 2006 accounted for less than one-tenth of one percent of California’s total job base.

“The migration numbers are always microscopic,” said Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, a Washington policy group that criticizes state incentives to lure businesses. “Every state wins a few and loses a few every year.”

California and Florida were hit hard by the housing collapse, but their economies have grown jobs at about the same rate over the past five years -- with California having a slight edge. Florida’s unemployment rate is 5.6% -- significantly less than California’s jobless rate of 6.7%.

James Rogers Jr., business development manager at manufacturer Aerojet Rocketdyne in Canoga Park, met Scott at a reception Sunday night and again Monday morning during a one-on-one meeting.

He said Scott didn’t make any specific pitch for Aerojet to move to Florida (the company has had a facility in West Palm Beach for decades). But Rogers said he liked Scott’s record on improving Florida’s economy.

“His numbers are rather impressive,” Rogers said. “He's trying to increase business by keeping regulations low. That's probably a smart thing to do. That makes sense."

Scott has sent letters in recent years to tech giants such as Apple Inc., Google Inc. and Facebook Inc. urging them to relocate to Florida. He has also targeted businesses in other states, including Pennsylvania and Colorado.

In 2013, Kentucky Gov. Steven Beshear sent a letter to Scott slamming what he called the latter’s “crude method of recruitment.”

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

1:40 p.m.: This story was updated with Florida Gov. Rick Scott's visit to California on Monday.

A previous version of this story was published at 6 a.m. April 12.

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