Let Florida’s Business Environment Breathe

It is time to loosen the noose.


Main Business Corridor of Historic District, Centre Street, Fernandina Beach
Main Business Corridor of Historic District, Centre Street, Fernandina

EDITOR’S NOTE: Contributing Columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insights on various topics in Marketplace column.


New taxes and regulations can act like a suffocating noose around an economic recovery.

This is particularly true if the economy is still wheezing. Taxes and regulations take the air out of a recovery by creating costs and roadblocks. It is like pouring a pale of pebbles in front of an accelerating car.

Some public leaders see this; others don’t.

New Florida governor Rick Scott apparently has a clear view of what government regulations can do to complicate the business environment. Scott is banning any new state regulations on businesses and is reviewing many already in place.

Florida’s economy has stalled like a cold engine. And Scott is determined to unencumber the business environment here. He plans to entice new businesses and cultivate existing ones by reducing regulations.

Just look at the state of Alabama. It has become a poster child for states that desire and welcome new business and clean industry (such as Mercedes-Benz and a new $600 million Airbus plant). The state discounts taxes, loosens regulations, and caters to the needs of a new business.

And the state’s economy is prospering for it. Some cities and counties can also take the lead from a business haven like Alabama. They can inadvertently become almost anti-business through creating a logjam of regulations, rules and requirements.

Look at a town like Fernandina Beach, for instance. There are regulations on architectural design, trees, seating, signage, exits, toilets, handicap access, lighting — and most recently, on noise.

Then there are impact fees and permitting fees and usage fees. You also have to proceed through numerous layers of government to get a final approval. After all that, you can begin to build or renovate. (See above paragraph regarding requirements and regulations for that.)

Scott reportedly has the most business experience of any governor in Florida’s history. In the private sector, he assembled a collection of independent hospitals into the largest hospital corporation (HCA) in the U.S.

It’ll be interesting to see how the private-business approach of reducing costs and streamlining operations will work in the public sector. It has got to work better than what we’ve had in the past.

We’ve become a nation of laws, of regulations, or restrictions. There seem to be laws on top of laws. Enough is enough.

Steve Nicklas

Scott has taken aim on “job killing” regulations. His executive order to freeze all rules now in the works was his first action in office. He wants Florida to be viewed a business-friendly place. (Our stubborn 12 percent unemployment rate is an indication that we probably are not “business friendly” at the moment.)

It is time to loosen the noose — and let the business environment here and nationally breathe with energy and vitality.

Steve Nicklas is a financial advisor who lives and works on Amelia Island. He can be reached at 904-753-0236 or send eMail to [email protected].