The Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Six Pillars to Success

A NEW STRATEGIC PLAN FOR FLORIDA BUSINESS IS currently being adopted all over the state, one that creates jobs and provides consistent, localized metrics for improvement through the year 2030. After spending $1.5 million on research and talking with more than 100 community and economic
development organizations, the Florida Chamber of Commerce leadership developed the Six Pillars plan, which focuses on areas as vast as education and infrastructure to government and quality of life.

The Beginning
“After the success of the Pensacola Chamber’s Vision 2015 job-growth initiative, many are probably wondering how we will make good things happen over the next 20 years,” said Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “The Six Pillars plan is the answer, but it only came about after struggling for a cohesive long-term plan for a long time.”

The problem, Wilson said, began several years ago when business and free enterprise began yielding to political agendas in order to accomplish statewide economic tasks. The Six Pillars plan puts business leaders back in the driver’s seat. As soon as they knew that they had to do something to help ensure Florida’s long-term success from the private sector, Wilson and his team looked at numerous organizations throughout the state and discovered about 36 different strategic plans, each with its own jargon, measurements, and objectives. The Florida Chamber discovered that a lot of these plans were similar and focused on six core objectives, which the board synthesized into six distinct pillars that uphold the overarching goals of prosperity and high paying jobs, global competitiveness, and vibrant sustainable communities.

“We needed a way to ensure all our energy and time are going toward one purpose,” said Wilson. “We need everyone on the same page, not trying to steer the state in a hundred different directions. We’ll never go anywhere unless we are all pulling for the same long-term strategic plan.”

The Six Pillars endeavor uses common language and metrics, called the Florida Scorecard, to ensure that even the areas of individual interest, like education or government, work toward the same statewide goals. Communities that adopt the plan are autonomous and empowered to make localized policy decisions that also benefit the state as a whole, which is in itself a huge player on the global economic stage. In fact, if Florida were its own country, we would have the 19th largest gross domestic product (GDP) value in the world, at $750 billion. One hundred million visitors are believed to come to Florida every year. The Six Pillars plan is tasked with not only sustaining this growth, but also improving upon it.

The Six Pillars
The first pillar, not surprisingly, comprises talent supply and education. Research indicates that Florida will be home to 6 million more people by 2030, boosting the state’s population to 26 million. In order to keep unemployment at 6 percent, the Florida Chamber has tasked itself with adding 1.9 million net new jobs over that time. In Escambia County, 7,000 jobs need to be added over that time, but Wilson believes the number is much higher. But these jobs cannot be just any jobs. In order to remain competitive in a globalized economy and enhance quality of life, many of these new jobs need to be high-wage and high skill, which is a direct product of the educational environment of the state.

Key drivers of the education pillar include early learning, K-12, higher education, workforce development, and lifelong engagement. While the state excels in some measures, such as reading scores, other metrics are woefully behind. Thirty percent of 4th graders are below proficient in math and 50 percent are below proficient in math and science. The fastest growing jobs for the class of 2021, however, will be jobs that rely on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills. About 60,000 STEM jobs will soon need to be filled in Florida alone. The first pillar encourages local action to ensure we can meet that demand both locally and on a state level.

The second pillar concerns innovation and economic development. Many years ago, the agriculture, tourism and construction industries buoyed Florida’s economy. Since the recession has come a pressing need to diversify as the construction industry was dealt a powerful blow. Agriculture and tourism remain strong. Florida has more than 47,000 commercial farms, some of which grow 65 percent of the nation’s citrus. Additionally, there are 1 million tourism-related jobs in Florida, or about one in eight. Twenty years from now, the key Floridian industries will include international trade, manufacturing and exports. Already, international business and foreign direct investment directly support more than 1 million Florida jobs.

By focusing on this diversification, as well as innovation, capital investments and financial markets and entrepreneurism, Florida will grow with the changing times are remain a competitor in this global economy. A recent Florida Chamber Foundation study indicated that state has the ability to create 150,000 new trade related jobs over the next several years.

The third pillar of the Six Pillars plan involves infrastructure and growth leadership. It may not be readily apparent, but with 6 million people moving here over the next 16 years and an additional million visiting every year, amenities like water, energy, transportation routes, and communication/technology availability must expand. Florida residents consume about 7 billion gallons of water each and every day, 725 million of which are reused. In 2030, we will need 9 billion gallons of water every day, a 28 percent increase. Due in large part to the blistering heat of summer, Florida’s energy use is second in the country to Texas and about 40 percent higher than the country’s average, yet only 2.2 percent of Florida electricity is harvested from renewable resources. Natural gas and coal produce most of Florida’s energy.

Renewability is the name of the game for Florida’s infrastructure. Greenhouse gas emission standards and alternative transportation are helping, but great strides must be taken to ensure Florida can meet the infrastructural demand of a population surge.

“If you are going to add residents and jobs, you have to make sure that infrastructure is in place to support that,” said Tony Carvajal, executive vice president of the Florida Chamber Foundation.

The fourth pillar is business climate and competitiveness, the key drivers for which are taxes, insurance, regulation, property rights, the legal climate, and workforce/employment issues. Wilson and Carvajal believe that by improving the legal and regulatory climate in Florida, private-sector jobs will increase. Lawsuit abuse taxes alone cost Florida families approximately $2.8 billion annually. The state ranks in the bottom 10 in the nation for a healthy legal climate. In order to attract and retain world-class job creators, the Florida Chamber believes that we must continue to work against special legal and regulatory agendas. The state could improve its economy by $15.5 billion by simply rejecting the agendas of special interest trial lawyers.

All this talk of regulation and legality leads to the fifth pillar, civic and governance systems. The state budget, according to the Florida Chamber Foundation, is in nearly as dire straits as the federal budget. Through budget and pension reform, research estimates that $500 million could be made available for things like education and infrastructure. It may seen encouraging that the state can pay about 86 percent of its bills, but the unfunded liabilities amount to more than $21 billion. By planning better, leveraging more local private-public partnerships, and electing ethical leaders, Florida can re-appropriate foolishly spent dollars to more beneficial programs.

The sixth and final pillar concerns quality of life and quality places.

“Used to be, people would want to work for a particular company and would move anywhere in the country just to be with that company,” said Wilson. “Today, you see the opposite happening. Young people want to live in Austin or Portland because of the quality of life, and companies are relocating to those places to reach that talent. Florida needs to boost its quality of life to not only attract these high-paying jobs, but also these talented people. We want people to stay here and move here.”

General healthcare is a big part of this pillar, with senior citizens accounting for more than half of the estimated population surge. The current research estimates that more than 220,000 healthcare and social assistance workers will be needed between now and 2030. With healthcare and insurance reform, along with Florida’s rejection of the Medicaid expansion, come many new unforeseen circumstances that only add to this growing problem.

The largest industries in Escambia County are government, leisure and hospitality, and health services. Those will continue to be the area’s predominant industries, while positions like nurses, food servers, teachers, accountants and licensed manual laborers will be most in demand. On the decline are data entry keyers, typists, sales agents, store clerks and switchboard operators. Luckily, Escambia County’s population projections indicate that those ages 25-64, the talent pool, will account for a majority of the population, followed by seniors who are seeking encore careers and children who are being prepped for careers and college.

Next Steps
The Six Pillars program has received widespread support, mostly in central and south Florida, and it is the decision of each individual chamber whether or not to participate in the program. Local Pensacola business leaders have already come out in support of the program.

“I’m afraid that if we don’t adopt this, we will become set in our ways and not take action on these important things,” said Stan Connally, president and CEO of Gulf Power. “We need to have more conversations on how, but I think now is the time to do this.”

“Let’s get started with this program and then see who we can get on board,” said Jerry Maygarden, president and CEO of the Greater Pensacola Chamber. Assuming local buy-in, Wilson and Carvajal suggest some rudimentary steps.

First, collect data on a local level, then identify our own performance gaps, and finally plan to overcome those using Six Pillars as a framework to guide the local dialogue. The resulting local priorities will differ, but the parameters and focus of the discussion will be identical. Wilson emphasized the power of an economic agenda communicated throughout the local and state political process empowered by the simplicity of a common language.

“We subtitled this plan ‘planning from the future’,” said Wilson. “Oftentimes, it’s difficult to know how to get started and what resources we need. If we know our end goal, though, we can work backwards and those things fall into place. This is also the first private job-growth plan in the country adopted by the state government.”

The Florida Chamber Foundation is the leading force behind the Six Pillars effort. The rest of the Florida Chamber supports the Six Pillars by organizing legislative priorities and interviewing candidates running for office using the framework. The success or failure of the program, however, relies on regional buy-in and cooperation.

“This process is only as good as our continued support,” said Bentina Terry, a trustee of the Florida Chamber.