Tuesday, September 10, 2013

EDC Job Creation In Doubt As Brevard County Budget Nears

BREVARD COUNTY, Florida -- It's that time of year again where a parade of County department heads armed with volumes of performance data and power point presentations go before the Brevard County Commission to both justify their current budget and identify their department's needs for next year's County budget.

And while first responders can break down response times, fires extinguished, victims saved, and bad guys convicted, the County Commission will not be able to look forward to hard performance data from the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast when it comes to how many jobs the organization has actually helped to create for existing Brevard County residents.

According to a statement from the EDC on Friday in response to a Brevard Times inquiry for the number breakdown of confirmed jobs open to Brevard residents from companies that received taxpayer money and other incentives:

"The EDC is the conduit for the incentive process but not the grantor or administrator of the incentive programs. While we generally maintain contact with companies we attract or assist, the grantors of the incentives are charged with monitoring technical compliance, which includes job numbers.  It would be redundant for the EDC to do this since municipalities, the county, and the state administer compliance monitoring through the annual reports required under the incentive programs."

But unlike prior years when taxpayers were kept in the dark as to actual EDC results, the State of Florida made public economic incentive performance data last March in response to a statewide backlash demanding accountability following the Digital Domain failure and other economic development scandals that did not deliver on their promise to create jobs in exchange for millions of taxpayer dollars.

Brevard Times obtained the State data regarding incentives given to companies in Brevard County.  There were a total of 702 jobs confirmed by the State of Florida for incentive projects brought by the EDC from FY 2004-2005 through 2010-2011.  Brevard County paid the EDC $9.4 million during that time period.

Of those 702 jobs created in a 7 year period, all but 10 came from well-established companies.  In fact, the bulk of those jobs (498 or 71%) came from just two well-capitalized companies: Lockheed Martin and AAR Airlift Group.

The other standout data point is where the confirmed jobs are located in Brevard.  The majority of those confirmed jobs (443 or 63%) were in the Palm Bay-Melbourne area.  None of the confirmed jobs were in the Titusville or North Brevard area.  Only 53 jobs went to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, leaving the rest of Brevard's barrier island communities with no confirmed jobs created.  Just this year, the City of Cocoa Beach recently took the matter of economic development into its own hands by creating a new Director of Marketing and Economic Development position.

Two other well-established companies, Embraer and DRS Optronics, which are also located in Melbourne, did bring jobs in exchange for taxpayer money, but those jobs were not confirmed by the State because those companies received upfront payments rather than having to later show performance for payment.

While the State data does shed some light on actual jobs created, it still does not break down the number of jobs open to Floridians versus jobs already filled.  As reported by Brevard Times in  Tax Money For Confusing Florida Jobs Numbers Explained, the actual number of high-paying (over $50k), direct, open job positions available in the near future to existing Brevard County resident is significantly lower from the "projected jobs" number used by the EDC in media headlines.   A more accurate term, more often than not, is "people with jobs" are coming to Brevard because most of the confirmed, high-paying jobs are already filled by internal, large-company transfers.

Brevard County Commissioner Infantini has called for a performance audit of the EDC.  "There's no allegation of wrongdoing," Infantini said at the August 20th Commission meeting.  "However, the EDC has never had an audit other than a financial audit.  Financial audits just show, "Did you spend the money where you said you spent it?"  It doesn't show whether or not you spent it as you should."  In response, County Commission Chairman Andy Anderson said, "I don't have a problem with it." 

The issue of an EDC audit has been placed on tonight's September 10, 2013 Budget Hearing Agenda which begins at 5 p.m.

UPDATE: Brevard County Commission Does Not Want To Audit EDC