By Robert F. Sanchez, JMI Policy Director
For the folks who hope to revive Florida’s economy and create thousands of new jobs, Christmas weekend’s nasty weather offered a sobering lesson.Like many unfortunate events, the problems began in California, where heavy rains and strong winds caused havoc. Moving east across the country, the storm brought record lows and heavy snowfalls – even in some regions not accustomed to ice and snow. Indeed, lots of Southerners who always dreamed of a white Christmas finally got their wish – and then some.Unfortunately for travelers, the worst of the storm affected major cities during the busy post-Christmas period. Result: Thousands of folks were stranded at airports socked in by blizzard conditions. Meanwhile, in Florida thousands of would-be travelers were also stranded at various airports where the skies were blue and the winds relatively mild, even if the morning lows were chilly. Flights from Miami or Tampa couldn’t depart for New York or Boston as the destinations’ airports were closed.Florida’s economy is also inescapably affected by what happens elsewhere. After all, a key segment of the state’s economy relies on the growth that occurs when retirees and others move here and buy homes.That steady flow of new residents slowed to a trickle when housing prices crashed nationwide. When would-be Floridians found that the equity in their property in, say, Ohio had evaporated and that there were no buyers anyway, many also found that they lacked the funds they’d expected to use to buy a Florida home. The affordability problem has persisted despite a steep decline in Florida’s home prices. That’s because, fortunately, the standards for obtaining a mortgage have appropriately grown more rigorous.Therefore, given the anemic recovery thus far in the national economy, there’s a limit to what Florida’s public officials can do for job creation. Even so, this is not to suggest that inaction is appropriate.Indeed, to create conditions conducive to a robust and diverse economy that consistently generates good jobs, what Florida needs to do while awaiting the nation’s economic recovery is to position itself to be ultra-competitive when the recession finally ends. That means reining in exorbitant taxes and fees, discouraging frivolous lawsuits, and getting rid of job-stifling rules and regulations that serve no useful purpose.Then Florida could hang a banner across the front of the Capitol reading, “Open for Business – Under New Management.” It would be a tangible reminder that no matter the weather, when it comes to jobs what really counts is the climate – the business climate.