Compared to all the large U.S. states, including perennial frontrunner Texas, Florida is outpacing the rest in terms of per capita job growth, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said during an event hosted by the LeMieux Center for Public Policy at Palm Beach Atlantic University this week.
That stands in contrast to years ago when the state’s economy was stagnant and “it was not the sunshine state anymore,” he said.
Today “there’s way more focus on where the jobs are, and we’re winning,” he said.
Palm Beach Atlantic University political science major Gigi Hortance greets Florida Gov. Rick Scott at PBA's Warren Library on Thursday.
Scott’s visit to PBA was his second in six years and first as governor. In 2008 he was a featured guest speaker for the University’s Ethics & Character Lecture Series on issues related to healthcare. At the time, Scott was the chairman of urgent care center operator Solantic Corp., and he is also founder, former chairman and CEO of Columbia/Hospital Corporation of America.
This time around, Scott’s arrival at PBA followed an earlier appearance on Thursday at Sancilio and Co., a pharmaceutical manufacturing company, where he announced the company was creating 275 jobs in Riviera Beach.
Overall, Florida has recruited more than 400 companies since his four years and three months in office, and more than 800,000 jobs have been added, he said.
He spoke about the importance of jobs to Florida families, recalling his parents’ financial struggles as he was growing up. He said his mother told him “if you want any money, go get a job,” which he did by selling TV Guides at age 7.
He noted that job growth and education are among the reasons Florida has seen an influx of 300,000 new residents annually.
Among those in the audience were PBA students and invited guests of the LeMieux Center, as well as about 15 students from Conniston Middle School and Forest Hill High School. Along with Belvedere Elementary, the public schools are part of an educational partnership with PBA known as the Parker Avenue Consortium.
Former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux (left) hosts a question-and-answer session with Gov. Rick Scott in the Lassiter Rotunda of the Warren Library at Palm Beach Atlantic University.
During a brief question-and-answer session with former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, Scott responded to an audience member’s question about the future of high-stakes testing in the state.
He said that changes have been made to reduce the amount of classroom time spent on testing. “We’re headed in the right direction,” he said.
In response to another question, Scott spoke about the role of faith in his life. Both his mother and grandmother are devout Christians, he said, adding that he prays frequently to have the right character, as well as wisdom and stamina.
He said he believes God has a purpose for him, although “it would be nice if He would send me a fax,” he said jokingly.
He advised students to figure out their purpose, find their faith, work harder than everyone else and work on building relationships.
His comments seemed to resonate with his young constituents.
Nickson Frezin, an eighth-grader at Conniston Middle, was impressed to hear about the governor’s humble beginnings.
“He has a very businesslike mind. He’s a really good governor of Florida,” he said.
“I was definitely intrigued by how much our economy has been boosted and all that he is trying to do to make Florida a more livable place,” said Catherine Schrubb, another Conniston eighth-grader.
What stood out for Forest Hill High School Student Government President Joshua Ott was that “he’s getting things done, which I like.”
For Evan Berlanti, a leader in Student Government at PBA, it was good to hear the impressive numbers about the economy. But more importantly, “those numbers represent real people’s lives,” he said.