New Florida Department of Economic Opportunity chief targets top business climate
By Scott Blake
Hunting Deutsch, the former Miami banking executive recently named to lead the new state agency tasked with pulling Florida out of its economic malaise, said he stands ready to "do everything possible" to advance Gov. Rick Scott's plan for economic development and job creation.
"Our goal is to make Florida the best state in the nation for business," Mr. Deutsch said in an interview last week with Miami Today.
As execute director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Mr. Deutsch said one of his first orders of business was to join the Scott administration's ongoing efforts to develop a five-year strategic plan to improve Florida's economy and employment opportunities.
The plan has some lofty goals for 2017, including making Florida a national leader in the creation of high-quality jobs by that time as well as the leader in drawing and retaining business, investment, professional talent, innovation and visitors.
In his new $140,000-a-year position — his first government job — Mr. Deutsch will be among Gov. Scott's top assistants in carrying out the plan.
During his first few days on the job last week, he attended a forum with representatives of the state's 24 local workforce boards.
The Department of Economic Opportunity, created last year, combines the state's economic, workforce and community development efforts.
Gov. Scott's economic development package already includes an additional $1 billion for education, aimed at creating a better qualified and skilled workforce. It also includes more than $1 billion in tax cuts for business over the next three years, including reductions in unemployment tax and corporate income me tax, among other incentives aimed at growing and retaining business.
In addition, the plan includes increasing performance measures of Florida's local workforce boards and agencies, which provide job training and placement services.
Rick Beasley, executive director of South Florida Workforce in Miami, said he applauds the administration's initiative to make workforce boards more accountable for their performance.
Mr. Beasley said South Florida Workforce has been a state leader in developing its own performance measures, and he expects the state to adopt some of those methods.
In Florida's job placement report for March, South Florida Workforce, which serves Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, ranked third among the state's 24 workforce agencies in a scoring system that takes into account the numbers of people placed into jobs, among other factors.
Mr. Beasley said the Department of Economic Opportunity's streamlined economic development and workforce programs should be a plus for Florida. If done properly, he added, the state will develop a single, cohesive job-creation plan instead of having different agencies working on separate initiatives.
"When a company comes in, we don't want a hodge-podge of agencies that are not working in a concerted effort," Mr. Beasley said.
Mr. Deutsch, meanwhile, said he plans to work with local economic development agencies, such as the Miami-Dade Beacon Council, and local business organizations, such as the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, to help develop individual job markets.
He said he knows the Beacon Council and the Greater Miami Chamber well from his many years working in Miami and getting involved in civic affairs.
"I was born in Miami," he added. "I spent 36 years of my life there, and about 20 years of my working life there."
Mr. Deutsch's last job was as executive vice president of wealth management at BankUnited Financial Corp., based in Greater Miami. BankUnited failed amid the housing market collapse several years ago but has been recovering under new ownership.
After leaving BankUnited in 2009, Mr. Deutsch said he took time to travel and do "some personal things," including helping with his son's wedding last year. "I took time off to regroup."
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