News & Media

Fla. Chamber Survey: Bullish on Doing Business Here

Ongoing international crises and a possible minimum-wage hike haven’t dampened the Florida Chamber Foundation’s upbeat outlook, economist Jerry Parrish said Thursday.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida’s business community is optimistic about the state’s economy in 2020, despite potentially ominous issues on the horizon. Ongoing international crises and the possibility of a minimum-wage hike haven’t dampened the Florida Chamber Foundation’s upbeat outlook for the Sunshine State, the organization’s chief economist Jerry Parrish said Thursday.

Business leaders think there’s only a 1 in 5 chance (21.1%) that the state will slip into a recession during the next nine months. That’s down from September’s 38.1% prediction, said Parrish.

The improved economic climate is based on an upgraded forecast on the return on long-term Treasury bonds and “an increase in Florida’s consumer sentiment,” Parrish said during a webcast. “Florida has been growing manufacturing jobs at nearly three times faster than the U.S. as a whole.” The “strong job creation numbers” and “improved economic diversification” were achieved by luring new businesses to the state and expanding companies already based here, he added.

“We know that Florida has become a destination for people from other states and countries who are looking for opportunity, a great quality of life … as well as companies that are looking for a great place to do business,” Parrish said.

The foundation’s chief economist is also bullish that 200,000 jobs will be created in Florida this year, up from an estimated 157,500 in 2019.

But not all is rosy for leaders of the business lobby.

Parrish and Florida Chamber President and CEO Mark Wilson both voiced support for maintaining Visit Florida, the tourism agency which has drawn fierce opposition from Republican House leaders. And the duo are opposed to a proposed constitutional amendment, slated to go before voters in November, that would gradually raise Florida’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2026.

“Increases in the minimum wage sound like a good idea to many people, but what happens in a lot of cases is that it ultimately hurts the very people its supporters claim that it will help,” Parrish said. “Many people get cut from full-time down to part-time hours, and they lose their benefits. There are also definitely jobs lost and some businesses will definitely close.”

Florida’s minimum wage rose from $8.46 to $8.56 per hour with a minimum wage of at least $5.54 an hour for tipped employees on Jan. 1.

In addition, lingering international trade disputes and tariffs have resulted in a reduction in trade, which has caused businesses to hold off on making investments. “Nobody wants a trade war, and I’m hoping that we can get these issues solved,” Parrish said.

It’s too early to make predictions on the latest crises developing in the Middle East, but Parrish also said they need to be watched.

“Florida has 20 military bases, three combatant command centers and 1.5 million veterans,” he said. “A lot of families could be impacted by these events.”

Source: News Service of Florida, Jim Turner