Water Cooler Wednesday: NY ‘Hucksters’

Is this the face of a 'huckster'?

Is this the face of a ‘huckster’?

Earlier this month, Florida CFO Jeff Atwater sent a snarky letter to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo poking fun at New York’s economic development efforts.

Mr. Atwater went so far as to call Cuomo a “huckster”, which qualifies for salty language if you know Jeff Atwater.

Atwater’s beef is that he thinks Cuomo’s TV ad campaign is deceptive. He took issue with the governor spending money running those ads in Florida.

Here’s what the NY Post had to say about the tiff.

“The Cuomo administration has spent $113 million on radio and TV commercials in-state and across the country plugging New York as a business and tourist mecca — much of it for START-UP NY, a new program that touts tax-free benefits for 10 years to firms that open near the Empire State’s public colleges.

 Atwater said he was shocked by the “arrogance” of the ads.

“The START-UP NY ad campaign certainly wouldn’t pass the truth-in-advertising test. Even pharmaceutical companies’ ads have a rapid disclaimer,” Atwater quipped.”




Doesn’t this stuff happen all the time?
Doesn’t Texas Governor Rick Perry pay for billboards in high tax states trying to lure companies to the Lone Star State?

Didn’t the “Governator” Arnold Schwarzenegger target industries when he was running the Golden State?
And don’t we here in Palm Beach County have a program designed specifically to poach hedge funds and the like from high tax /bad weather New York, New Jersey and Connecticut?

I’m not a big fan of poaching, but it happens all the time. And sometimes companies pretend to leave in order to extract incentive dollars from states that don’t want to see them go.

I happen to know and like Jeff Atwater, very much. He’s a good guy. He’s smart, affable, talented and devoted to public service. I knew him when he was a local elected official and despite being from a different party I supported his bid for the State House because I thought that our legislature could use more business people. As a former local elected official, Mr. Atwater actually knows how to solve problems.

 In local government you have to solve people’s problems because if you don’t they’ll end up in your driveway or finding you at the local Publix.

Still, while I wouldn’t unilaterally disarm, I wonder if there’s a better use of $113 million in tax money.

Tourism ads are one thing and cities should also advertise the business opportunities available in their locales. But if I were Governor Cuomo, CFO Atwater or Gov. Scott I would spend my time, money and political capital on working with the state’s talented business leaders to grow, nurture and create the best climate for economic growth possible.

If successful, you don’t have to throw money at companies to stay or relocate, they’ll want to be here. After all, nobody has to convince companies to move to Silicon Valley or Boulder, Co.

Better yet, if you create a climate of opportunity you’ll retain the best and brightest young minds in the Sunshine State.

So what needs to happen?


  • Continue to build a world class higher education system: UF, FSU, UCF, USF and our own FAU have made great strides in recent decades. We need them to be and do even more and that will require an investment. It’s not enough to be good; we need to compete with the Stanford’s of the world.
  • Develop statewide and local strategies to retain our bright young minds. Bright young people shouldn’t feel that they have to move to Silicon Valley, Boston, NY, Austin or Boulder to succeed.
  • We need more Venture Capital dollars and deals in Florida. Our venture flow is paltry.
  • Invest in our state colleges and engage our private universities in the mission.  There’s a big role for Lynn, Nova, PBAU and PBSC.
  • Become the national leader in career and trade education. Not every student is college bound, but there is a need for skilled workers across a range of industries.  Become a leader in training and you’ll have companies sprouting up to take advantage of the talent.
  • Don’t ignore early childhood education, social services and prek-12 education. Aspire to be the best place in the world for teachers to live and work.
  • Become the state known for investing in climate change protection measures.

    You get the idea.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if this what our gubernatorial debate was about; how to build a Florida that works for all?
    Instead, we will probably see $100 million spent on Charlie’s flip-flops and tan and Rick’s various misdeeds.  No wonder nobody recognized the Governor when he dined at a Panera Bread in Boca last week.

    We are not focused on the issues real people care about.  And so we tune out and that’s not the answer.





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