Guest blogger: Mark Wilson
Florida reached another record-breaking year for tourism, by welcoming more than 116 million visitors from other states and countries in 2017. Tourism is key to Florida's competitiveness. The truth is that visitors to Florida help "pay the bills" and help ensure Floridians don't pay a personal income tax. Florida's tourism industry brings in more than $6 billion in state taxes, and more than $5 billion in local taxes which in turn helps fund schools, improve healthcare and support other government services.
During tough economic times, investments in tourism marketing helped lift Florida up while also creating jobs for families. In fact, for every 85 visitors to Florida, one job is created.
Interestingly, first time visitors become long-term residents after learning of Florida's welcoming and competitive business climate, and no personal income tax. And tourism is helping diversify Florida's economy by increasing our international exposure - or increasing international trade in services.
However, one of the greatest benefits of Florida's competitive advantage in tourism is that jobs in the tourism and hospitality industry are among the biggest training grounds for the skills employers are looking for.
At a time when Florida's job creators are increasingly concerned with workforce quality, these are the very skills that will move Florida forward and support the 398,000 people looking for jobs.
While some jobs created are entry-level positions, Florida must continue to create an entry point into the workforce. This is especially important for helping the 2.9 million Floridians in poverty, by providing our residents with work-based solutions. We must keep in mind that the economic benefits of helping people into the workforce includes the opportunity to gain skills and earn an income - reducing dependence on social programs.
Through on-the-job training, internships and apprenticeships, employees learn valuable skills that contribute to a quality workforce in the future. Florida's tourism and hospitality industry takes on-the-job training to new levels, and according to the U.S. Travel Association, two out of five workers that start their careers in hospitality end up earning six figures.
There's little doubt that those who have moved to Florida - more than 100,000 in just the last year from Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut - were first exposed to Florida as tourists. Florida will see increasing amounts of new residents from these states and others because of the change in tax laws benefiting Florida's families and businesses. Florida's Chief Economist Dr. Jerry Parrish expects Florida's population to expand by at least 400,000 residents during the next year. This means nearly 1,100 net new residents a day.
Florida's tourism and hospitality industry are vital to Florida's economy, and as Florida's population continues to grow, so must our focus on making Florida the best place to live, work, and visit!