Chamber Advocacy Update – February 19, 2015


You’re invited to join us for the first Chamber Advocacy Forum designed to give our members a better understanding of key regional issues that could impact their businesses and the greater Tallahassee business community.

This inaugural event is hosted by the Chamber’s Business Advocacy Committee and will focus on our region’s Higher Education ecosystem. Speakers and panelists will detail the legislative priorities of FSU, FAMU and TCC and how their shared priorities will leverage extensive and immediate positive economic impact to our community.

Speakers Include:

  • Reggie Bouthillier | Stearns Weaver Miller Alhadeff & Sitterson, P.A. and Chair of Chamber Business Advocacy Committee
  • Mark Wilson | Florida Chamber of Commerce
  • David Coburn | Florida State University
  • Anthony Hopson | Florida A&M University
  • Jim Murdaugh | Tallahassee Community College

The CEO of the Florida Chamber will discuss how the state’s college and university system effectuates positive impacts to businesses statewide, as well as highlighting a few other key legislative goals that his team is advocating for on behalf of businesses.

Attendees will enjoy breakfast and engage closely with speakers in a close-up, informative and lively setting to start the 2015 legislative session in support of regional business growth.



In a partnership with other local governments (like the Leon County Schools and the City of Tallahassee), CareerSource Capital Region, our higher education institutions, the Chamber, EDC and World Class Schools, Leon County is putting a renewed focus on the ecosystem of “middle skilled” jobs in our region for the sustainable “artisan” careerists. These being jobs that require some technical training above high school, but not necessarily a four year degree. In many cases they are sustainable, stable and well-paying jobs. And they reflect skills and careers that are growing in demand in our region.

Importantly, on February 18th at Lively Tech this broad coalition of invested partners and a number of approximately 50 local officials (including business leaders from AMWAT Movers, TMH, TeligentEMS, and Danfoss Turbocor amongst others) joined in a unique EDC roundtable for our partner organizations involved in this initiative. The purpose of this roundtable was to hear from our community’s education, workforce and business leaders about what is needed in our community – what is working and what can be further done – to further support this dynamic, sustainable, and vibrant segment of our talent supply/labor market.

The dialogue and input was encouraging and robust. Initial discussions at the roundtable reveal that we have a growing need for this type of talent to be cultivated from early within the K-12 curriculum process through initial hiring in well-paying jobs and further into fulfilling careers across our region. This topic goes next to the Leon County Commission in early March for conceptual approval to continue the collaboration and work toward a late fall Middle-Skilled Career Expo and Summit. It is expected that this entire process will continue to grow and take form as more business voices are heard and the demand for this type of labor force comes clearer into focus. We will continue to update you on ways for business’ voices to be heard as this initiative moves forward into the remainder of 2015 and beyond.


For over 32 years, one of the state’s core economic revitalization programs has consistently been the Enterprise Zone (EZ). Initially a pilot program in a handful of cities, it now serves 65 communities (including Tallahassee/Leon County since 2003) and has an annual state budget of approximately $15M. Locally, it has been governed by the Enterprise Zone Development Agency (a public/private governing body) and administered by the EDC since implementation (in 2006). Significantly, our EZ has stimulated the creation of over 550 new jobs bringing over $5m in state tax incentives back into our community to support job growth since inception. For more information about the benefits of our local EZ, please visit the program’s website.

Though Florida’s EZ program, which has always been codified in state law with an “end date” in mind, has been extended many times previously since its’ 1982 creation, such an extension has faced strong headwinds as the December 2015 date approaches. Reasons for this difficulty range from a legislative desire by some leaders to reallocate funds dedicated for this program toward other budgetary priorities (a normal constant in the annual state budgeting process) to a shift in the political winds stemming from state studies indicating that much of the positive impacts of the EZ program are experienced via new local property tax revenues (and not via new state level revenues such as sales tax increases).

While a recent Taxwatch study heralded the benefits of the EZ program, specifically to the state’s vibrant retail sector, and while the EZ’s broad coalition of support has ranged from the Florida Chamber to the Florida Association of Counties (FAC), Florida League of Cities (League), Florida Economic Development Council (FEDC) and many others at the regional and local level, it appears at present that the prognosis for the extension of this program is not good and it will be allowed to expire by the Legislature.

While the Greater Tallahassee Chamber monitors this issue and advocates for its continued success, we are also working with partners such as the EDC of Tallahassee/Leon County, the Florida Chamber, FEDC, the League and FAC to help develop alternative program proposals to maintain and further expand the state’s competitiveness in the economic development arena. As policy proposals develop during the upcoming legislative session, we will continue to monitor the following concepts for inclusion in any new state-backed program that may, in turn, benefit our local business community:

  • Tie to job creation and capital investment;
  • Focus on outcomes that benefit both the state and local communities;
  • Sensitivity to rural and urban areas;
  • Maintaining multiple tools for Florida’s economic development “gearbox” to fit unique local needs over time.

We will continue to monitor this important issue moving forward. For the remainder of 2015 we encourage local businesses to both become informed and take advantage of the many incentives and benefits of the state’s EZ program; a program that has leveraged much economic good in our community during this past decade.


(This is Part One in a Three part series)

In order to combat the growing book of data reflecting our Capital City’s arising status as a regional gun violence leader (with national statistics revealing that we are on par with Miami in some categories), the City of Tallahassee has partnered with the Chamber, local businesses and a multitude of local parties to attack this problem and improve quality of life metrics in our community. Immediately after his hiring, Chief Michael DeLeo worked with veterans in his Department, City Management, and community leaders to outline a five part plan to fully analyze, own and improve systematically our crime rate performance moving forward. That plan, which included a renewed focus on community involvement, strategic planning, independent policy review and creation of a “culture of procedural justice,” included the creation of a “Community Leadership Council on Gun Violence” (Council) in July 2014. Chamber members may recall that Chief DeLeo spoke of this plan (and related opportunities for further improvement) at the 2014 Chamber Annual Conference, as well as at numerous other business and community events.

The purpose of the Council, which was embraced and approved by the City Commission, is both large scale and important. It’s duties include full identification and categorization of crime data, as well as crafting of recommendations for inclusive law enforcement programming to address those crime volumes. In short, to pull back the veil and fully analyze the problem of gun violence and the social, educational, neighborhood, business, religious and criminal justice impacts of this issue locally, while also crafting plans to help solve the negative impacts of this issue on our community. The mission of the Council is to find effective solutions to address the increasing gun violence in our community. The objective of the Council is to understand, evaluate and recommend solutions to deter and reduce gun violence. The Council’s mission is not gun control. The council is divided into five committees: 1) Assessment and strategic planning; 2) Education and youth; 3) Neighborhoods and faith based organizations; 4) Criminal justice and reentry; and 5) Communications. Future editions of this newsletter will perform a deeper review of the pertinent crime data, the Council’s efforts (and of its committees) and will conclude with any recommendations and outcomes experienced because of the Council’s work.

The Chamber understands gun violence impacts our community’s quality of life, businesses and economy. Importantly, the Council includes two appointees from the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. Reggie Bouthillier (appointed to represent the Chamber of Commerce and Chair of The Business Advocacy Committee) and Gloria Pugh (appointed as a south side business owner and also a member of the Business Advocacy Committee) both have served on the Council since inception. The Business Advocacy Committee will continue to monitor and inform Chamber members and the business community regarding the progress of the Council. Currently, the Council (through the leadership of Chief DeLeo) is evaluating several strategies and budget needs to present to the City Manager and City Commission. Look for updates in your next BAC Newsletter on this vital topic of importance to our region.


I would like to thank Ed Murray for agreeing to serve as Vice-Chair of this Committee for the remainder of this year and then to serve as Chair for 2015-16. Having a former Chamber Chair, and someone with his knowledge and experience, as a member on this Committee is extremely important to our success. I appreciate Ed’s continued  commitment to the Chamber and to our community.

We thank you for joining the Business Advocacy Committee and the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce in supporting business vitality across our community and region. Your active participation is key to our success. Please engage with us to share your thoughts and ways we may further improve and support your business in 2015.


Reggie L. Bouthillier, Chair