Governor Rick Scott says Florida is a great place to do business, and he has made job creation a top priority. But does the state really need to promise millions in tax breaks to lure big companies to the Sunshine State?
It's your money given to corporations that can suddenly downsize, outsource, or change directions -- and the jobs vanish. That's why some believe there's a real downside to the state's job creation policy.
"We need accountability; we can't keep giving the hard-earned tax dollars of Floridians to companies and then have them double-cross us," said State Representative Dwight Dudley,D-St. Petersburg.
He points to companies like JPMorgan Chase as an example of a company which has received incentive money, then later eliminated jobs.
"It seems like low-lying fruit for those big companies," continued Dudley.
But the company says that's not true. Spokesperson Maribel Ferrer told us that JPMorgan Chase has met, and in some years, exceeded the jobs in Tampa.
She says the current layoffs are the result of changes in the mortgage industry because fewer people are struggling to most have already refinanced.
Over the past 16 years, records show Hillsborough County, along with the state of Florida, gave out more than $12.5 million to the company in the form of incentives to create more than 4,700 jobs. But just as the company has added jobs over the years, it's also eliminated positions -- as Renee Gilbert found out.
"I was devastated because I really did enjoy my job," said Gilbert.
She told us that she was hired in 2001 and received glowing reviews working in the Letter of Credit Collections Department at JPMorgan Chase. She was let go in June of 2009.
"I was not let go for anything other than the fact that the department was shutting down," explained Gilbert. "The statistics we were told is they were laying off 500 people."
Gilbert says some jobs went overseas to India and some to Chicago. Ferrer told FOX 13 that some jobs were indeed lost and did go overseas, but could not be more specific or comment on any individual employee. She said the important thing is that JPMorgan Chase is strongly committed to Florida.
Dan Krassner with the watchdog group Integrity Florida says taxpayers better deserve answers.
"When you have a policy in the state of Florida that says not every business matters and we're going to pick some winners and favorites like JPMorgan Chase to get taxpayer subsidies, what happens when the promises aren't kept and the jobs leave our state? Where's the accountability?" wondered Krassner.
The Department of Economic Opportunity is in charge of keeping track of incentive deals. After months of pushing, the agency now promises to start publishing the details of incentive deals online beginning in October, a move that Krassner says is long overdue to make big companies who accept tax dollars accountable to the public.
Full JPMorgan Chase statement send via email:
As discussed, for privacy reasons, we cannot comment on employee status. I can confirm that there were some reductions in 2009 and some jobs went overseas.
As I mentioned before, JPMorgan Chase is one of the fastest growing employers in Hillsborough County. Our company has added more than 1,300 jobs in the city of Tampa over the past three years. We employ more than 5,000 people in and around Tampa. This growth has allowed us to exceed our commitments to grow jobs in the region.