By Lynette Norris
Greene Publishing, Inc.
Greenville native Crystal Sircy, now Senior Vice President of Business Retention and Recruitment for Enterprise Florida, addressed the Rotary Club for the second time at its Sept. 7 meeting. The first time, she was 16 years old, and her presentation to the Rotary was part of a public speaking contest.
She related to story to illustrate the positive influence the Rotary had both in her life and that of her father, a Rotarian for many years, adding that individuals and civic organizations should never underestimate the impact they can have on other people.
Sircy has now been with Enterprise Florida since 1997, an organization that is striving to have a positive influence on Florida’s economic development. Having also worked in economic development for several years before she joined Enterprise Florida, she has become passionate about the effect the group can and does have on Florida’s economy.
Enterprise Florida, Inc., a public/private partnership that bridges the gap between government and business, composed of about 60 of Florida’s major business leaders, from major banks like Wells Fargo, to large landowners like the St. Joe Company, to major law firms, to corporations with headquarters in Florida. It is a “heavy-hitting” organization with a mission of bringing business to Florida and creating new jobs, whose chair is none other than Florida Governor Rick Scott, a man who is also very much into creating jobs.
“So the pressure is really on us to produce results,” said Sircy.
Rather than having the state’s economic structure dependant on one industry, Sircy supports diversity, which is better able to weather economic ups and downs. Enterprise Florida targets the aviation/aerospace/defense industry, clean tech energy, financial planning and similar professions, information technology, life sciences and others. It does not target retail, an industry that will move in with or without incentives, or tourism, which is handled by Visit Florida.
Through research and contacts, Enterprise Florida looks for companies that are about to make major decisions – where to build, where to hire more workers, and where to invest capital. It might be pharmaceutical companies just finishing up ADA trials of a new drug and looking to expand, or a company that has been investing heavily in research and development of a new product.
In just the few months since January of this year, the group has had 205 active projects going with various companies, with a potential of 55,000 new jobs. So far, 100 of those projects have “landed,” said Sircy, creating 13,904 new jobs in the state. The companies usually contract with Florida for tax breaks, but they don’t get these until they fulfill their part of the contract, producing the promised results. “And (those results) are tall orders,” she said.
In Madison and in other surrounding counties of “critical economic concern” (Hamilton, Taylor, Baker, Suwannee and Columbia), over 2600 jobs have been either saved or created. It is a process of “patient effort” said Sircy, urging Madison and other small rural counties with limited resources not to give up county-owned land to the first company that pops up, but rather to wait for a company that will bring the most benefit possible to the area.
Currently, although Madison’s unemployment level and poverty rate significantly exceeds the state average, the tools are in place to help brings more jobs to the area, and Sircy is on the front lines of the recruiting and retaining effort.
“That’s why I do it…the reward of helping someone keep their job.” She said. It is part of what she has done for the last almost 20 years in her work. “Creating jobs is what I’m passionate about. And that’s where I’ve landed.”