New business models and new technologies often emerge in downturns. We look to entrepreneurship, in combination with innovation, to return to a period of sustained economic growth.
As Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, it is one of my responsibilities to keep a keen eye on Florida’s finances—to ensure that we deploy the dollars that taxpayers send to government in the most economically sound manner while helping create conditions for long-term economic success.
Florida’s unwavering commitment to making tough decisions in tight financial times equates to a more prosperous state. These decisions have preserved our AAA bond rating, which translates into hundreds of millions in interest savings for Florida taxpayers. Additionally, we reduced our debt to the tune of $1.5 billion in just two years and decreased the size of our state budget. Our actions send the clear message that our state takes seriously its responsibility to keep as many dollars as possible in the pockets of Floridians.
I have made it a priority to meet with business owners across the state to help develop initiatives that will create a more business-friendly environment. Removing regulatory barriers and coming up with innovative ideas for helping new and existing businesses grow are keys to our economic success. Government must be the champion of free markets and not stifle growth with unfair regulations, cumbersome processes and oppressive taxes. In putting Floridians and businesses first, not bureaucracy and politics, we can continue to cultivate an environment that nurtures our businesses and cultivates the entrepreneurial spirit.
It is abundantly clear that entrepreneurship is important for economic growth, productivity, innovation and employment. Economic crises are historically times of industrial renaissance. New business models and new technologies, particularly those leading to cost reductions, often emerge in downturns. We look to entrepreneurship, in combination with innovation, to return to a period of sustained economic growth.
One of the ways we can break out of our economic entrenchments is through higher education. We continue to see business incubators and entrepreneurship programs take hold at our universities. These programs nurture Florida’s young entrepreneurs, connect start-ups with resources, and introduce new industries to the state.
There is tremendous opportunity for economic growth and diversity in Florida. The biotech and life science industries now see Florida as the place to be. We have a burgeoning trade sector in Florida, as we are the gateway to the Americas, and Florida will need to continue building on that opportunity. We have helped create an environment that is business-friendly and have attracted new and innovative companies to our state. But it is the resolve and hard work of our fellow Floridians that counts most. They will take these opportunities and make the American dream a reality.
Creating a sustainable economy and a vibrant market for new jobs is critical for the long-term prosperity of our state. By branching out, fostering innovation and planning for the success of future generations, we can pave the way for greater success. But we cannot succeed if we move forward blindly. We need our business community, each of you reading this article. I ask for your input and thoughts on how we are doing and what we can do to improve.
Together, we can make a positive impact for Florida today and Florida tomorrow.
WHO IS JEFF ATWATER?
Jeff Atwater, a fifth-generation Floridian, was elected Florida’s Chief Financial Officer November 2, 2010, and was sworn into office on Jan. 4, 2011. Atwater, also an officer of the Florida Cabinet, oversees the Department of Financial Services. Recommended by the Constitutional Revision Commission, and passed into law by voters in 1998, the Florida Legislature carried out an amendment to the state’s constitution by merging the Department of Insurance, Treasury, State Fire Marshal and the Department of Banking and Finance into the Department of Financial Services effective January 2003. The department is made up of 14 divisions, several specialized offices and 2,000 employees.
Atwater believes Florida can best prosper through its people rather than its government. The cornerstone of his platform as CFO is to reduce the burden on Florida’s families by spending every taxpayer dime “in the most efficient and effective manner.” Some of his top priorities include fighting financial fraud, abuse and government waste; reducing regulatory burdens that stifle business growth; providing for transparency and accountability in government spending; and creating the conditions for economic development and prosperity in Florida.
Atwater’s commitment to public service began in 1993, when he served as vice mayor of North Palm Beach. In 2000, he began his legislative service as a member of the Florida House of Representatives. Two years later, he was elected to the Florida Senate, where he continued to serve the people of Broward and Palm Beach counties. After chairing high profile Senate committees, Atwater gained the unanimous support of his fellow Senators in becoming Senate President and led the Senate from 2008 through 2010.
Prior to serving in public office, Atwater worked as a community banker for more than 25 years.
Florida’s Chief Financial Officer oversees the state’s accounting and auditing functions and unclaimed property, monitors the investment of state funds and manages the deferred compensation program and risk management program for the state. Also, insurance consumer service is handled by the CFO, and the office is responsible for the licensing and oversight of insurance agents and agencies, as well as funeral homes and cemeteries. Additionally, insurance fraud investigation is overseen by the CFO, as well as ensuring businesses have workers’ compensation coverage in place for employees and helping injured workers with benefit payments and re-employment.