Jamal Sowell, president and CEO of Enterprise Florida, was the keynote speaker at Friday’s Citrus County Chamber of Commerce luncheon and he came bearing good news for local business owners.
His agency is there for them.
Enterprise Florida is the state’s economic development arm and is publicly and privately funded. Being a native Floridian, Sowell said he knows the ins and outs of the state and the special needs of rural counties like Citrus.
“There’s more to Florida than what people see on TV,” said Sowell, who also serves as Florida’s secretary of commerce.
In addition to the idyllic weather and great golf courses — a nod to Black Diamond Ranch where Friday’s event was held — there is the commitment to business growth, he said.
“We are a state that welcomes business,” he said..
Citrus County, like its other rural counterparts in the state, is best served by a quality transportation system to move people around once they get here, he said.
But there is work to be done, he said, including:
— developing a qualified workforce for employers
— finding talented workers and providing the necessary training. “We have to find and develop talent,” he told business owners.
— diversify the economy. This is true in Citrus County and everywhere in Florida, Sowell said.
Sowell said his job is to travel globally to sing the praises of Florida’s business climate and he believes that reputation is improving.
Florida’s low taxes, ease of business start-ups and the growing focus on international markets, is helping small businesses to relocate here and existing ones to expand, he said.
Sowell said Enterprise Florida will work with local employers to meet the needs of a changing business landscape.
And diversification of the economy, which is also a goal of county economic development officials, is key to the success, he said.
“For Florida to survive, we need to add more legs to the stool,” he said.