Sunday, April 27, 2014

Economic Development Key Issue This Election Year

Economic development, through the use of tax abatements and direct payments of taxpayer dollars to select corporations, had never been much of a deciding political issue in Brevard County.  

But Brevard voters are now taking a more skeptical look at economic development and questioning whether taxpayers are actually getting all of the benefits promised by economic development advocates following:

1. The arrest of Mitch Needelman in the BlueWare scandal; 
2. Less than 1,000 jobs confirmed in 7 years after spending over $10 million;
3. Taxpayer-funded trips to Singapore and Paris;
4. The County Commission's refusal to audit the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast (EDC);
4. The EDC's refusal to comply with a public records request;
5. The Department of Labor investigation into Brevard Workforce for possible cronyism;
6. The multimillion dollar settlements by the Technological Research Development Authority and the Melbourne Airport Authority following a Department of Justice's False Claims Act investigation.  
7. The federal indictment of Thomas Biddix; and  
8. $6.5 million taxpayer dollars given to Miracle City Mall developers through the North Brevard Economic Development Zone (NBEDZ).

Beyond the scandals and negative publicity economic development organizations in Brevard have helped to generate in the last few years, there is a fundamental philosophical issue of whether government should be intervening in the free market at all by picking winners and losers.  

Local supporters and opponents of the status quo have fallen into two political camps.

The most outspoken supporters of government intervention in the free market under the banner of economic development are:

Select companies that financially benefit directly or indirectly from the government aid;
FLORIDA TODAY, which holds a seat on the EDC board and received over $50k for a substandard website from the Tourism Development Council (TDC);
FLORIDA TODAY opinion columnist Matt Reed;
NBEDZ, TDC, CRA, and EDC officers, board members, and employees;
BlueWare CEO Rose Harr;
Former Clerk of Court Mitch Needelman;
County Commission District 4 candidates Richard Charbonneau (R) and Lisa McDermott (R)
County Commission District 2 candidate Jim Barfield (R); and 
Brevard County Commissioner Robin Fisher (D).

The most outspoken opponents of government intervention in the free market under the banner of economic development are:

Brevard County companies that are placed at a disadvantage when their direct competitors receive government handouts (e.g. Searstown Mall and Mack Technologies);
Conservative radio talk show host Bill Mick;
Tea Party organizer Matt Nye;
Brevard County Clerk of Court Scott Ellis;
County Commission District 2 candidate Michael Hartman (R);
County Commission District 4 candidates Curt Smith (R) and Randall Victor (Vic) Brungart (NPA); and 
Brevard County Commissioner Trudie Infantini (R).

Since the Brevard County Commission races will likely be decided in the Republican primary, it will be up to Brevard County Republican voters to decide the economic policy future for the Space Coast.  Therefore, it is helpful to look at the national Republican Party platforms for some insight on Republican economic policy.

"Today’s Democratic Party views the tax code as a tool for social engineering. They use it to control our behavior, steer our choices, and change the way we live our lives. The Republican Party will put a stop to both social engineering and corporate handouts by simplifying tax policy, eliminating special deals, and putting those saved dollars back into the taxpayers’ pockets." (Emphasis added.)

A similar stance was re-affirmed in the Republican Party's 2012 economic platform

"Taxes, by their very nature, reduce a citizen’s freedom. Their proper role in a free society should be to fund services that are essential and authorized by the Constitution, such as national security, and the care of those who cannot care for themselves. We reject the use of taxation to redistribute income, fund unnecessary or ineffective programs, or foster the crony capitalism that corrupts both politicians and corporations."
(Emphasis added.)

When the current economic development policies in Brevard County are held against those standards espoused by the national GOP, it appears that the Republicans (Curt Smith and Michael Hartman) who are ideologically similar to Ellis, Infantini, and Mick, are more politically consistent with the GOP economic platform than the Republicans (Jim Barfield, Richard Charbonneau, and Lisa McDermott) who are more politically aligned with Florida Today, Fisher, and/or the EDC.  

It is still far too early in the election season to predict who will win the Commission races.  But regardless of the outcome, we will learn this August just how ideologically aligned Brevard County Republican voters are with the national GOP economic platforms and also what impact the recent (and ongoing) economic development scandals have had on the County Commission races.


FIRST LOOK: 2014 Candidates for County Commission District 2

FIRST LOOK: 2014 Candidates for County Commission District 4

EDC Job Creation In Doubt As Brevard County Budget Nears

Miami Herald: 6,100 jobs promised for Brevard, 0 confirmed

Creating Scandals Instead of Jobs: The Failures of Privatized State Economic Development Agencies

Tampa Bay Times: New frontier for Space Coast jobs


  1. Brevard Times your article does a good job exposing the difference between pretend Republicans a/k/a RINO's and real Republicans.

  2. Cheap shot: Including the names of good people that favor the EDC with a couple of criminals that are long gone. BlueWare CEO Rose Harr;
    Former Clerk of Court Mitch Needelman; VERY cheap shot. As to Jobs please go to Embraer and they will show you 300 full time jobs and 100 1099 jobs NOW so your less than 100 jobs is highly not accurate.

    Also please take a trip to the EDC and meet with Lynda Weatherman and Gregg Weiner and they will fill you in on what they are doing, and doing they are and it's exciting.

    1. In addition I think Mary Bolin, Andy Anderson, Stockton Whitten and Chuck Nelson are supporters of the EDC. How about the 600 new Embraer jobs and a new plane coming, how about the 1800 Magellan jobs coming.

      How about: Technological Research and Development Authority (TRDA) and Florida/NASA Business Incubation Center (FNBIC) and Brevard Workforce Development Board, Inc and Enterprise Florida (EFI), and Florida High Tech Corridor Council (FHTCC) and Florida Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) and Eastern Florida State College Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and Founders Forum and Florida Virtual Entrepreneur Center and Women's Business Center (WBC) and The Florida Economic Gardening Institute at the University of Central Florida - GrowFL and Cocoa Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and Melbourne Regional Chamber of East Central Florida
      and Greater Palm Bay Area Chamber of Commerce and Titusville Area Chamber of Commerce and Harris Corporation, Florida Tech, and Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund (QTI) and Qualified Defense & Space Contractor Tax Refund (QDSC) and Capital Investment Tax Credit (CITC) and High Impact Performance Incentive Grant (HIPI) and Quick Response Training Program (QRT) Jobs for the Unemployed Tax Credit Program (JUTC) and Incumbent Worker Training Program (IWT) and Economic Development Transportation Fund, Health First, Parrish Madical center, Wusthoff Medical Center, and Embraer, and Grumman, and North American Surveillance Systems Inc. and Accelerate Brevard and First Wave Financial. and Made in Brevard. and
      Brandt Ronat and Company and Artemis IT, and

      Just to name a few that are EDC supporters or part of the EDC.

    2. Richard, you are correct in part. The TRDA scandal was mistakenly left out of the article.

      Scandalized TRDA Wants Brevard County To Take Over

      The list is of the most outspoken - so it is a matter of degree. Matt Dupree was rarely in the public eye.

    3. Mr Charbonneau, did you take your medication today.

    4. Mr Charbonneau, did you take your medication today. Well I'm off to the boys room if that matters to ya! Possibly I'll feel better when I return? LOL

      And when the smoke settles Mr Parker I think you'll see Matt Dupree was the bagman and Lynda Weatherman and Gregg Wiener had zero to do with it and zero knowledge of of it.

    5. The TRDA and Melbourne Airport Authority scandal was added to the article. Thank you, Richard, for pointing out that oversight.

    6. Thanks for the mention, Mr. C., but this was not my work..

  3. Hi Richard,

    Mitch Needelman and Rose Harr are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

    The number used in the article is 1000, not 100.

    This article breaks the EDC jobs numbers down based on the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Database. You will also see in that article that the EDC gave a response to the jobs numbers:

    1. Innocent or not it stinks to have the names of good people associated with "innocent till proven guilty people and you left out Matt Dupree",

    2. The list is of the most outspoken - so it is a matter of degree. Matt Dupree was rarely in the public eye.

    3. They are NOT good people!!!

  4. We left out my good friend Jack Smink now a NPA who is a strong supporter of the EDC, Gregg Jones who is also a supporter and my other good friend Ron Taylor who (Correct me of I'm wrong Ron) IS a supporter of the EDC but ONLY after some reforms and some disclosures. Dave Armstrong and Bill Klein I really can't say but hope they chime in.

    1. I would hope so as well so we may all know. The EDC is a Brevard County version of Popeye's Wimpy character. I will gladly bring you jobs tomorrow for millions of dollars today. Embraer has 400 jobs out of $20 million spent by the County on 'economic development' in the last ten years. Embraer came five years ago, so how many jobs do we have TODAY for the nearly $10 million spent in the last five years?

    2. Scott my friend (yes friend) we agree on so many things but I guess the EDC is one we will never agree on but I'm hopeful I can make you a believer (just a little) I don't care if they bring 100 jobs or 10,000 jobs and I don't care who makes claim for them, even you can if you want as long as the good jobs come. Do I like being held up by companies to come here> no double no but I'll hold my nose for the stink as long as the good jobs come.


    3. Oh brother! Mr. Charbonneau is running for County Commissioner. Voters take heed. He has been drinking the EDC kool-aide.

    4. Yes, Richard I do support community Economic Development and an EDC. But I’m a Small Business advocate. There is plenty of help for large corporate entities. I’d like to see an EDC that also has a small business growth orientation supported by a strong relationship with a university, not political connections. This is the successful tactic South Florida uses with FAU and Texas uses. This PDF lists a litany of such programs in Texas: BTW Along those lines, Florida Tech is currently developing an incubation program. Studies have shown growing small businesses in the community leads to more job growth and more companies remaining in the community than an emphasis on importing large corporate entities. For an in-depth understanding of what I'm talking about please go to this website My fundamental ethical problem with our EDC is its taking public monies and not complying with records requests under Florida law. I know we don’t agree here but let’s just agree we disagree. I also have a problem because it claims it supports small businesses. But if you talk to small businesses that approach them… there's a nice smile, a handshake, a listening ear, and a walk to the door...with no help offered! I am tough on the EDC but have a different approach than Mr. Hartman who wants to throw the baby out with the bathwater. He offers no real solutions just political one-liners to pander to a political base. On the other side is Mr. Barfield who believes the EDC is just fine the way it is. I have to admit, for better or for worse, it has been good for him. Although I don't agree with Mr. Barfield, due to where his personal business interests’ lie I think he is more sincere than Mr. Hartman.

    5. Mr. Taylor, Please explain your approach with the EDC and how you plan to handle this organization if you are elected. Thank you

    6. Mr Taylor , very disappointed in your response regarding the EDC. They should be abolished. Let the free enterprise system do their thing, w/o taxpayer dollars.

  5. Richard, you or any other Commission candidate, are welcome to submit an OpEd explaining how their respective economic policies fall in line, or deviate, from their party's platform.

  6. I was at a County Commission meeting where a majority of EDC members also were present. I watched as Lisa McDermott made herself look like she was one of their team. She was so busy that she couldn't even sit in her seat for five minutes running through all the aisles. It was a sight to behold and in my opinion I would say she is definitely in bed with the EDC.

  7. Lisa McDermott and Richard Charbonneau should not be elected to anything. These are the types of people we are trying to purge from our system. We don't get many opportunities to do this and this next election is one of these few times.

    Please Mr. Voter, lets get rid of these people.

  8. I'm a rather new resident here. EDC develops or brings jobs here?, Sure, and I just saw an albino manatee. What do you suppose the cost to job found ratio is $$$$$?
    This is Florida, we come here to retire not start a career. Stop squandering our tax money.