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Ad touting Florida oversells state’s language skills

From Doug Hanks and the Miami Herald's Economic Time Machine:

[UPDATE: Around 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Enterprise Florida wrote to the Economic Time Machine to say the ad had been revised to fix the error we pointed out earlier in the day. The version of the commercial on the campaign’s website,, no longer mentions multi-lingual wokers in Florida. Here at the ETM, we sometimes have to correct faulty figures, too, so we’ll happily consider the matter closed.]

A new ad touting Florida’s diverse workforce mistakenly puts English-only workers in the minority.

Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday rolled out the state’s new “Perfect Climate for Business” campaign, which seeks to convince companies that Florida is just as good a place for commerce as it is for vacations. The video spot that’s a highlight of the $5 million effort includes the line: “We offer a talented workforce of over 9 million, including 5 million multi-lingual workers.”

That’s not quite right, according to Census figures. Florida does in fact have 9 million people in the workforce, but fewer than 3 million speak a foreign language at home, according to Mark Lopez, associate director of the Pew Hispanic Center. And only a portion of those workers are proficient in English, too.

The apparent flub may have come from Census figures showing Florida as a whole has 5 million people speaking a language other than English at home. But that’s out of a population of 19 million. As in most states, Florida’s workforce constitutes only a portion of the population, thanks to children, retirees and people who choose not to work. (The unemployed are counted in the workforce.)

A spokesman for Enterprise Florida, the agency that oversaw creation of the campaign, was not immediately available for comment. But officials at the organization have said that the ad would likely go through a few changes in the future as the marketing campaign rolls out.

While about 5 million people in Florida speak a foreign language, not all of those residents can be considered multi-lingual. Census figures from 2011 show that 2.1 million Florida residents describe themselves as speaking English “less than ‘very well.’’’

The Miami Herald’s Economic Time Machine blog seeks to put South Florida’s recovery into historical perspective. We try to take the long view on economic stats. For analysis of the latest economic news, visit and look for our weekly chart on Page 3 of Business Monday.

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