ORLANDO – From infrastructure and workforce education, to tourism and criminal justice, the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Future in Florida event promises a comprehensive look at all the challenges Florida will face in the coming years.
Over the course of two days earlier this week, attendees heard from statewide elected leaders on a wide array of developing issues. Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis spoke about cyber fraud; Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried talked hemp; and Attorney General Ashley Moody covered state constitutional issues.
The Chamber Forum also featured a slew of top lawmakers, past and present, as well as business leaders and the heads of several state agencies.
Former House Speakers Dean Cannon, Steve Crisafulli and Will Weatherford took the stage for a conversation on leadership; future House Speaker Paul Renner talkrf about the importance of building careers rather than simply adding jobs; Sarasota Sen. and RPOF Chair Joe Gruters talkrf about the implementation of online sales taxes; and St. Petersburg Sen. Jeff Brandes spoke on the importance of prioritizing second chances over harsher punishments within the criminal justice system.
The 2019 Future of Florida Forum also provided an update on the progress made since the release of the Florida Chamber’s Florida 2030 project.
The massive research project measured numerous metrics effecting quality of life in the Sunshine State, including high school graduation rates, employment trends, poverty, housing sales and tourism.
A changing technological and economic landscape makes defining future challenges, and crafting strategies for Florida to tackle them, difficult.
Approximately half of the jobs Floridians will hold in 2030 don’t exist yet – either because the industry they’re in is in its nascent phase, or because it has not yet taken root within Florida’s diversifying economy.
That’s all compounded by explosive population growth.
More than 21.7 million people now live in Florida. By 2030, the state’s population will breach 26 million – a nearly 20% increase. The state will need to create another 1.5 million jobs to support the influx of new residents.
Still, the Florida Chamber has identified many ways the state can step up to challenge. But the goals outlined in the Florida 2030 project, such as raising 3rd grade reading scores to 100% and cutting childhood poverty in half, are nothing if not ambitious.
The Florida Chamber has kept tabs on the state’s progress through the Florida Scorecard since the release of Florida 2030.
In some facets, the state is faring well. Unemployment is at 3.2%, more than 86% of Florida high schoolers are earning diplomas, and the tourism industry continues to shatter records year after year. It’s not all roses, however – the poverty rate is ticking up, as are the number of homeless school children.
But those are all raw numbers.
This week, the Florida Chamber dug deep into that data and updated attendees with a full picture of where Florida stands as well as what the state and private business can do to make sure Florida is on track for a bright future.
Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.