Florida’s Economy Can Shine More If Its Leaders Realize That Governance Is Serious Business

by Bobby Reyes

| Photo by micheile.dot.com on Unsplash

Part II of “Florida, the State of the Future” Series

The four biggest states in the American union are California (population: 39,613,493), Texas (pop: 29,730,311), Florida (pop. 21,944,577), and New York (pop: 19,299,981). They are the only states with more than 19 million each in population.

The economy of the State of California is the largest in the United States, with a $3.4 trillion gross state product (GSP) as of 2021. It is the largest sub-national economy in the world. If California were a sovereign nation (2022), it would rank as the world’s fifth largest economy, behind Germany and ahead of India.

As a sovereign country (2016), Texas would be the 10th largest economy in the world by GDP, ahead of South Korea and Canada and behind Brazil. For 2019 Texas’s household income was $67,444, ranking 26th in the nation.

If New York State were an independent nation, it would rank as the 11th largest economy in the world. Some reference books, however, placed New York as the 10th biggest economy in the world (if it were a separate country), followed by Texas.

The economy of the state of Florida is the fourth largest in the United States, with a $1.2-trillion gross state product (GSP) as of 2021. If Florida were a sovereign nation, it would rank (in 2021) as the world’s 16th largest economy according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), ahead of Indonesia and behind Mexico.

Florida’s private sector over-the-year job growth rate has exceeded the nation’s for 12 consecutive months since April 2021. Private sector industries gaining the most jobs over the month were professional and business services, with 9,400 new jobs. The manufacturing sector gained 4,500 new jobs. But …

“Imagine if all of Florida’s state, local and congressional leaders devoted all their time to socioeconomic development and healthcare, education, and non-partisanship governance.”

What percentage do “new jobs numbering 13,900 positions” (in one month) when Florida’s labor force is more than 10 million workers? Please read this report: “Florida’s labor force increased steadily after reaching its low point in November 2009 (8,033,000), declining slightly upon reaching a peak in March of 2019 (10,335,000), but has been increasing since. There were 10,421,000 in the labor force in September 2019, with 10,085,000 employed people.”

Imagine if all of Florida’s state, local and congressional leaders devoted all their time to socioeconomic development and healthcare, education, and non-partisanship governance. Imagine if they did not devote lots of their time campaigning against the vaccine, use of masks and other pandemic protocols, the teaching of human rights (especially for individual sexual preferences), gutting public schools, denying the pro-choice right of women, illegal immigration (when Florida is one of the leading melting pots in the country), and so on. Perhaps, Florida could be at least the second most-developed state — behind California.

This column discussed how Florida could help in the education, training, and Board certification of half of the announced shortage of 13 million nurses in North America and the world by 2030. I sent the ideas to several state leaders belonging to both parties. But sadly, only Commissioner Nikki Fried replied through (our mutual friend, Eric Ziegler) that as soon as she becomes the first woman governor-elect, she would convene a task force to study the proposal and push it if found viable. The said proposal is now dubbed “Florida’s Nursing Initiative-2030.” The plan can increase Florida’s labor force by more than 60% in less than eight years. And there will be more jobs, as the initiative will have downstream projects like constructing student dormitories on Florida’s campuses, growing and distributing food supplies, and manufacturing nursing and medical uniforms, gowns, personal protection gear, etc.

Nearly all said nurses educated, trained, and Board certified in Florida are expected to maintain their legal residence in the Sunshine State. And thereby increasing Florida’s population by nearly 28%. Or even by a higher percentage, as more nursing and medical teachers, they would hire college employees and other professionals from other states — if the present pool of educators is not enough. It should dramatically increase the median household income of Floridians, as Board certified nurses, especially those who are bilingual, earn a minimum of $75-K per annum (without overtime and just on three working days of 12 hours per day). All nurses and other medical workers Board certificated in Florida can work in other states. Or even in countries with shortages of nurses and other medical professionals.

This writer devoted a column article about “A Florida Gubernatorial Bet Is Interested in this Column’s Nursing Proposal.” Some of the socioeconomic proposals advanced in this column may be adopted by the entire slate of the Democratic Party of Florida in this year’s election — as part of its economic platform.

Perhaps it is time to resurrect the spirit of “bipartisanship and folksy statesmanship” of the late U.S. Senator and Governor Lawton Chiles. Yes, Mr. Chiles was not necessarily a Democrat but an American statesman in public office. Because governance is a serious business, public leaders achieve more by being non-partisan, primarily when they act as statesmen (or statespersons, to use a neutral gender).

Richard Pearson of The Washington Post wrote a eulogy for Lawton Chiles, 68, the Florida Democrat who spent 18 years in the U.S. Senate before serving eight as governor — all the while gaining a reputation as a talented and folksy Southern statesman, who died on Dec. 12, 1998, in Tallahassee after an apparent heart attack. Here is Mr. Pearson’s excellent account of an “ideal and gifted Floridian public servant.”

“The Democratic committee member, Robert Wexler, said, “Governor Chiles was, I think, in most Floridians’ eyes, the epitome of a fine and decent man, a throwback to the age when partisanship didn’t play the role it plays. . . . This man rose above party.”

” …it is time AGAIN to ditch partisanship and work together for “Florida, the state of the Future.” The future begins with this year’s election cycle. The bright and better future is in the voters’ hands at the ballot box.”

This columnist observed then-Senator Chiles’s popularity and overwhelming support of Floridians. It happened when this writer cum entrepreneur was then an executive of a moving company based in New Jersey. He attended the 1978 convention of the Household Goods Forwarders Association of the United States in Orlando, FL. During one of the convention dinners, someone read then-Senator Chiles’ message to the association. I was then a member of the association’s Executive Working Group as its Asian representative. When asked about Mr. Chiles, all of the Florida-based moving-industry executives expressed their admiration of and support for Mr. Chiles, who they said was unbeatable if he ran for governor. In 1991, Mr. Chiles was inaugurated as Florida’s governor and reelected. Unfortunately, he died in office before he could complete his second term.

Yes, Floridians, it is time AGAIN to ditch partisanship and work together for “Florida, the state of the Future.” The future begins with this year’s election cycle. The bright and better future is in the voters’ hands at the ballot box.

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