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Enterprise Florida CEO says agency is 'worth saving'


As 43-day tenures on the job go, Chris Hart’s has been about as tough as you can get.

Hart, the new CEO of Enterprise Florida was once again testifying before a committee in the Florida Legislature today, trying to convince lawmakers to simply let his agency continue to exist. Hart took over in January with a mission to restore trust in Enterprise Florida, which had been criticized for excessive spending in the past.

It was weeks after he took the job that the Florida House proposed a bill to wipe Hart’s entire agency off the map.

“It’s been a whirlwind, as you can imagine,” Hart told a Senate budget writing subcommittee on Wednesday.

Hart said the agency has cut back office space, reined in travel cost and better focused the agency on its core mission of helping businesses grow in Florida.

“We would like you to understand that we take our fiduciary responsibility very seriously and we want to be good stewards of the public tax dollars that you have provided us with,” Hart said.

After the hearing, Hart said he understands the criticism of Enterprise Florida. Lawmakers have complained that the agency hasn’t been transparent enough and not always accountable to the Legislature. Already the agency is heading in the right direction on both fronts he said.

“I think this is worth saving,” Hart said.

Hart was speaking to a friendlier audience in the Senate. While Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, has been critical of Enterprise Florida in the past, he has called for “recasting” the agency, not eliminating it like the Florida House has proposed. Brandes is chairman of the Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations subcommittee.

House leaders have argued that Enterprise Florida is simply corporate welfare that puts the government in the position of picking winners and losers in the free market.