Bay EDA Responds to Criticism & Incentive Changes - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Bay EDA Responds to Criticism & Incentive Changes

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Bay County, Fla. -

Jobs, it's the only thing that will keep our economy churning, that's the main reason Florida has joined other states in offering incentives to those who will bring more. But in the last couple of years, lawmakers say they tired of getting burned by companies not meeting expectations.

In 2012, nearly $2 million in taxpayer money was on the line, that according to a report released by Integrity Florida and Americans for Prosperity. They are two watchdogs organization who criticize the work of the state's largest economic development agency.

The 20 page report says Enterprise Florida failed to meet its job creation objectives, has several conflicts of interest and picks winners and losers.

"I do not agree that Enterprise Florida is doing a bad job or is picking winners or losers." Executive Director of the Bay County Economic Development Alliance, Neal Wade works closely with Enterprise Florida and says he disagrees with the report's finding.

"Well number one, I don't think they have conflicts of interest. Secondly, I don't think we pick winners and losers. We send them the projects that we bring in and want to try to compete for," Wade said.

One of those projects was Redpine Healthcare Technologies. Attorney General Pam Bondi is suing the company after it took $750,000 in taxpayer cash in 2011 to open a Panama City office and then closed.  "Red pine became somewhat of a poster child. I think it's time to get over that," Wade said.

As a result, Wade says state and local governments made adjustments. The EDA goes through a company's financials before offering them incentives and only after reaching certain benchmarks, money is awarded.

But for lawmakers that isn't enough, they want additional transparency surrounding economic incentives. "We should disclose information about companies who locate here. You should never disclose what you are negotiating with during the negotiations because if other states know what you put on the table, then they are going to match it or they are going to try to beat it."

Since wade served as Alabama's Secretary of Commerce, he's seen a change. Florida is more competitive and warns if lawmakers continue to disclose additional information, the state's success could be comprised.