Florida Gov. Rick Scott touched down in Southern California on Sunday for a business recruitment trip, then jumped on the phone to sell the virtues of the Sunshine State.
“Hi, this is Rick Scott,” he told a reporter. “Can I convince you to move to Florida?”
Scott, a Republican, is trying to persuade shipping companies to move their operations to ports in Florida.
Business relocations are relatively rare. But job-hunting trips are a reliable way for Republican governors to score political points by contrasting their economic policies with those in a heavily Democratic state.
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Scott said that in Florida, with its lower tax burden, “We let you keep your money.”
Scott’s trip is reminiscent of excursions in recent years by former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, including a modest public relations effort.
Enterprise Florida, the state’s public-private economic development group, aired radio and newspaper ads in the Los Angeles area to coincide with the trip.
“Are you a business owner sick of paying high taxes?” one spot begins, going on to promote the benefits of low taxes and a “business-friendly attitude” in Florida.
The ad buys are relatively small, at $17,000 for radio and $49,000 for print, according to Enterprise Florida.
Still, even a limited incursion can touch a nerve.
On Friday, the Greater Sacramento Area Economic Council, an economic development group, issued an appeal to businesspeople: “It’s time to fight for California’s jobs.”
The group posted a volley of tweets promoting California’s economic climate with the hashtag #FLvsCA.
Rob Lynch, president of Rancho Cordova’s VSP Global and one of the founders of the Greater Sacramento council, declined a meeting with Scott, a spokesman said.
California Gov. Jerry Brown was largely dismissive of Scott’s visit, too.
“They’re coming here because this is where all the jobs are,” Brown told reporters in Colusa on Saturday. “I don’t find too many Californians going to Florida looking for jobs.”
Brown added, “We do buy some of their orange juice, and that’s good.”
Florida has invested in port upgrades to lure increased cargo expected to pass through the Panama Canal once it is widened, likely next year. Scott also is hoping to capitalize on frustration over recent labor disputes at California ports.
Once the Panama Canal project is finished, experts expect some diversion of shipping traffic away from California. The extent of that shift, however, is unclear. Florida is competing not only with California but with nonpeninsula ports on the East Coast.
Asked if he had persuaded any shipping companies to move yet, Scott noted he “just got here today.”
But in addition to tax advantages and Florida’s port infrastructure, Scott talked about the state’s “great education system” and other benefits.
Just before the call ended, he said, “Have I convinced you yet?”
Call David Siders, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1215. Follow him on Twitter @davidsiders.