October 21, 2020
Thursday, January 22, 2015
Bill Johnson named new Secretary of Commerce and president & CEO of EFI
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Enterprise Florida, Inc. (EFI) held its quarterly Board of Directors meeting in Tallahassee. Governor Rick Scott, who serves as chair of the Board, addressed the group and discussed the state’s improving business climate. The meeting also featured a presentation from the Team Florida Partnership and a success story from Bit-Wizards, a Fort Walton Beach IT and business consultancy company.
Secretary of Commerce and president & CEO of EFI, Gray Swoope, gave his final address to the Board as EFI president. Secretary Swoope announced his resignation last week. “Over the last four years, I have been privileged to work with an incredibly dedicated team at EFI, and we have had tremendous support from the Governor, Legislature, our Board and partners across the state,” said Swoope. “We have built great momentum and put Florida squarely on the map as a premier business state. I look forward to watching Florida’s continued growth toward becoming the number one job creation state in the nation.”
Senator Jack Latvala and Representative Clay Ingram attended the board meeting, and spoke about the upcoming legislative session and EFI’s role in economic development across the state.
Senator Latvala said, “Our state has come a long way in the years that I’ve been a Floridian, and it’s come a long way since I first came to the senate 20 years ago, but I think that what has happened in the last four years is particularly remarkable. What a wonderful leader [EFI has] in Gray Swoope. Universally, when I ask people about the effectiveness of EFI in this economic development resurgence in Florida, the answer is 100 percent positive.”
“The location and expansion of Navy Federal Credit Union in Pensacola has truly been transformative to our community,” said Representative Ingram. “At the end of 2014, Navy Federal announced that they were bringing 5,000 jobs to Pensacola. Enterprise Florida worked hard to bring this to fruition and I want to offer my thanks and support and recognize that this is just one of many projects that Enterprise Florida has been a part of bringing to the state.”
The meeting was the first to be led by new EFI Board vice-chair, Alan Becker. “Gray put together a great team and a great culture that will assure continued focus on and success in our mission,” said Becker. “Florida’s challenge and opportunity is to market our tremendous advantages as a place to do business. Our low tax structure, friendly business environment, outstanding workforce, and strategic location are not as well-known as our tourism industry and terrific weather. We will continue to aggressively market Florida’s business advantages throughout the country and around the world. We have had many high profile success stories with major companies choosing Florida. Such stories create greater visibility and, ultimately, more success.”
It was announced that Bill Johnson will replace Gray Swoope as Secretary of Commerce and EFI president & CEO. Bill currently serves as the director of the Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department and has previously served as the director of PortMiami. Johnson has served in a number of leadership roles in business, maritime and economic development organizations at the national and international levels. He will begin his role with EFI on March 1.
During the meeting, Fred Leonhardt, chair of the EFI Board’s legislative committee, gave a preview of the 2015 legislative agenda, goals for improving Florida’s business climate and the economic road ahead.
The Team Florida Partnership presented an update on its Perfect Climate for Business campaign. Over the past 18 months, the Team Florida Partnership, along with EFI, mounted a $1.4 million advertising campaign and associated events that resulted in more than 57 million impressions, allowing the partnership to have direct outreach to more than 2,300 business decision makers and influencers, and resulted in meetings with more than 120 site selection consultants.
During the board meeting, Vince Mayfield, Bit-Wizards CEO and co-founder, talked about the company’s growth and recent expansion. Bit-Wizards is an innovative IT and business consultancy company headquartered in Fort Walton Beach.
Mayfield said, “I want to thank the Governor and Legislature for making Florida a state where businesses can flourish. We plugged in with our local economic development council and our local chamber, and continue to work on our company and grow it. We really wanted to stay here in Florida – we love the quality of life and the lower cost of living – and so we decided to stay here. And with that we started a $1 million expansion, as well as increasing our sales force. Now we are working to create 20 new jobs in the area.”
The next EFI board meeting will be held May 28 in Tampa. EFI’s board meetings are open to the public, with provision for public comment, and are televised live by the Florida Channel. In addition, the Board of Directors section of EFI’s newsroom includes agendas, committee meeting materials, fact sheets and other resources.
“WHAT THEY’RE SAYING ABOUT SECRETARY GRAY SWOOPE…”
FROM EFI BOARD MEMBERS, STAKEHOLDERS AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PARTNERS
“We are fortunate to have had Gray Swoope on our journey to be the best place for work and live. Gray has said many times that economic development is a team sport – and he has been an incredible team captain and teammate.”
Stan W. Connally, President & CEO, Gulf Power
“Gray set the vision and strategy for Florida’s improved job growth and then he personally communicated that strategy throughout Florida, our nation and the world. I have been proud to support such a hardworking, visionary leader.”
Brett D. Couch, Florida President, Regions Bank
“Gray IS the gold standard of economic developers. At EFI he created a team and a culture that will keep Florida the best in the country for job growth. At least as important, we will miss him because he is a really great guy. “
Alan S. Becker, Attorney/Founding Shareholder, Becker & Poliakoff
“In my opinion, Gray Swoope was one of the best, if not the most effective, EFI Presidents at job creation, job retention and economic diversification. Gray has that rare combination of high level expertise in the field combined with an unrelenting and tireless dedication and focus on job creation results. His focus and relentless energies to secure results kept EFI from falling into the distractions of the detractors that inevitably come with the job. The taxpayers of Florida owe a great debt of gratitude to Gray Swoope and his family for their tireless dedication and tremendous sacrifices to make Florida’s economic development agency and performance second to none in the USA.”
Dominic M. Calabro, President & CEO, Florida TaxWatch, Inc.
“Gray always found time for Northwest Florida. As an EFI Stakeholder, our region became economically stronger with the visibility that Gray gave us and the rest of Florida. He is a true champion of Economic Development, a true professional and we will miss him at the helm.”
Larry Sassano, President, Florida’s Great Northwest
“One of the advantages I saw as a professional economic developer when considering moving from North Carolina to Naples was the state’s laser like focus on job creation. The chance to work with Gray in that capacity was certainly a draw. He’s leaving Florida in an excellent competitive position for more job creation.”
John Cox, President & CEO, Greater Naples Chamber
“Secretary Swoope has contributed so much to Florida through his leadership in economic development and bringing jobs to our state. He is a consummate professional whose dedication and determination has well-positioned Florida for continued growth and prosperity.”
Dwayne Ingram, CEO of IT Capital Services, CareerSource Florida Board Chairman
“As Governor Rick Scott’s top business recruiter, Secretary Swoope’s expertise and vision has been a game-changer for Florida. The partnerships he formed and strengthened with leaders in business, education, workforce development and economic development helped pave the way for Florida’s historic economic turnaround, benefiting families and communities now and in the future.”
Chris Hart IV, CareerSource Florida President and CEO
“As the new economic development hire for Walton County, I wandered into the Aerospace Alliance annual meeting in 2013 not really knowing anybody. Standing there at the entrance was Gary Swoope, who said ‘you must be Steve Jaeger from Walton County’ and then proceeded to take me around to introduce me to EFI staff. After half an hour of this, I was feeling very much at home and remain very grateful to Gray for doing something he did not have to do. Says something about the man.”
Steve Jaeger, Executive Director, Walton County Economic Development Alliance
“I join the FEDC Board in wishing Secretary Gray Swoope only the very best as he embarks on new adventures. Gray, the consummate professional and economic developer, has left an indelible mark on Florida. To see the accomplishments in economic development over the past four years with Gray at the helm has been wonderful. We will be sad to see Gray go but know the path he forged will continue.”
Amy Evancho, President & CEO, Florida Economic Development Council
“A perfect gentleman. A man you can trust. A leader you are proud to follow. A team player and someone who was willing to sacrifice personally for our Florida. I have no doubt that Florida wouldn’t be number one without Gray’s leadership.”
Glenn Hunter, Columbia County Economic Development Director
“Florida was fortunate to have Gray’s leadership for the four years he has been here. His vision and commitment to job creation were motivating. His leadership style is engaging, and he makes you want to work that much harder to succeed because you see him working so hard. I always enjoyed being able to just walk up and say hi and talk about everything from job creation to golf to his being from Clay County, MS. Gray Swoope – thank you.”
Bill Garrison, President, Clay County Economic Development Corporation
”Gray has put the pedal to the metal for the last four years, driving the state’s economic development strategy with tireless drive, passion and his deep knowledge of successful strategies. He’s provided strong support and partnership to us here at the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation and we wish him the very best as he pursues his new goals and ambitions.”
Rick Homans, President & CEO, Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation
“Gray Swoope has been an exceptional economic development leader for the state of Florida. His tireless efforts in promoting Florida as the best place for business have had an enormous impact on the success Florida has experienced in growing jobs. He has helped make our economy one of the strongest of all the 50 states, and largely, because of Gray, when companies consider a location or expansion decision, Florida is among the states at the top of their list. We owe Gray much gratitude for what he has accomplished on our state’s behalf.”
Bob Swindell, President and CEO, Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, Chairman, Florida Economic Development Council
“Gray Swoope has been the quiet force behind Florida’s ability to attract new investment and creation of jobs. His understanding of how to approach the market and ability to seal the deal have added real value to the wellbeing of Florida. I am sorry that we will lose his services at EFI but glad he will still make Florida his home.”
Marlin W. Hutchens, Market Vice President, Walgreens Company
“Gray’s passion, enthusiasm and professionalism have made him a pleasure to work with and for, as he has directed the dedicated team of professionals at EFI in an amazingly successful job creation campaign over the past few years. He will be missed.”
Jeff Chamberlain, Vice President of Real Estate, Publix Super Markets, Inc.
“Gray and his team have made a world of difference in Florida’s economic development landscape. EFI Project Managers seem much more focused, and the entire staff – including the Executive office, is very accessible. He has truly set the bar high, and has put Florida on site selectors’ radars both domestically and internationally. Those will be hard shoes to fill, to be sure!”
Helene Caseltine, CEcD, Economic Development Director, Indian River County Chamber of Commerce
“Gray Swoope has been an outstanding Secretary and head of EFI. Along with Governor Scott he rejuvenated our economic development efforts and allowed us to reach new highs in job creation. His straight forward, aggressive and honest approach made us all better at what we do. He will be missed by all.”
Jerry Mallot, President JAXUSA Partnership
“Gray Swoope has been a tireless advocate for economic development in the State of Florida. His partnership with Governor Scott and leadership at Enterprise Florida has positioned the state for continued expansive job growth and prosperity. We will miss him.”
Rhea F. Law, Chair, Florida Offices, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC
“Having worked in economic development for 18 years in Florida, I’ve seen a lot of changes. The best thing that happened to this state and business development was the hiring of Gray Swoope. Gray was accessible and very easy to talk to about projects, the state and life outside economic development. The State of Florida has a hard task ahead in replacing Gray but with our current leadership, I’m confident that EFI will continue to grow jobs in Florida and keep our economy healthy and strong. Good luck Gray…it’s not goodbye, it’s see you later.”
Tim Dougher, Executive Director, BDB of Martin County
“Gray’s passion for economic development and drive to be competitive was contagious. I know he and his entire team are why we far exceeded our job creation goals over the last four years in the Pensacola area.
Scott Luth | Senior Vice President, Economic Development Greater Pensacola Chamber
“For the past four years, Florida has been extremely fortunate to have someone of Gray’s caliber and credibility as its Secretary of Commerce. Gray was able to pull together leaders with diverse interests from all across our great state and get them going in the same direction, which helped create thousands of new jobs in Florida. We can’t thank him enough, and we wish him the very best in his future endeavors.”
Eric Silagy, President & CEO, Florida Power & Light
“The announcement that Gray Swoope is departing as Florida’s Secretary of Commerce and President & CEO of Enterprise Florida is a true loss for our state. Gray has worked tirelessly over the past four years to position Florida as a state friendly to small business and Fortune 500 companies alike. Likewise, his unfailing dedication to our nation’s military has taken Florida’s unparalleled military support programs to new heights. Bottom line, Gray Swoope has played a tremendous role in rebuilding our state’s economy at a time when we needed it the most.”
Nathan Sparks, Executive Director, Economic Development Council, Okaloosa County, Florida
“Through his leadership and tireless work these past four years, Gray Swoope helped change the course of Florida’s economy. Alongside Governor Scott, Gray has led the effort to support and implement pro-growth economic policy, and the result has been a remarkable economic turnaround. The Sunshine State is growing again and Florida is now competitive for major business relocations and expansions. The people of Florida are indebted to Gray for his service. On a personal level, I am grateful to have had the chance to learn from and work alongside Gray. I am thankful to Gray and his family for the sacrifices they’ve made and wish them happiness and good fortune in their future endeavors.”
Jesse Panuccio, Executive Director, Department of Economic Development
“During his tenure, Gray has worked diligently to lead Florida to a whole new level of sophistication in positioning the state for business growth. Those efforts have helped many key business leaders and decision makers, both internally and externally, think differently about Florida’s capabilities, and that fresh perspective has opened the door for new economic opportunities throughout the state. Gray is a ‘hands-on’ bridge-builder, whose actions speak louder than words as he helped navigate projects through to a successful outcome. This characteristic was especially evident when he worked to secure Northrop Grumman’s Aircraft Integration Center of Excellence project in St. Johns County. Not only is Gray well-respected among his fellow economic development professionals and site consultants throughout the country for his exceptional knowledge and expertise, he is a genuinely thoughtful person with a warm, approachable personality that leaves a positive impression with everyone he meets. Gray was a true asset to the Florida economic development team and will be sorely missed.”
Melissa S. Glasgow, Director of Economic Development, Office of the County Administrator, St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners
“I was personally disappointed to learn that Gray was leaving. I believe he was a very positive change for EFI as he was quick to grasp the areas the state needed to improve in order to make Florida a more attractive environment for businesses to locate as well as help existing businesses expand within our state. He also had the courage to challenge the legislature to take the needed actions to understand the realities and necessities to improve the overall environment. The latter comment is, in my opinion,where Gray shined.”
Kevin Hyman, Brighthouse Networks
“Simply put, Gray has been the most accessible, responsive and insightful leader EFI has ever had. He has not only led by his words and consultations—which have been extremely valuable—but more so by his tremendous work ethic and professional example that has inspired economic developers and partners statewide. He has brought a focus, energy and vision to the rural communities in Florida that will yield productivity long after his tenure is done. Many people and leaders talk about changing an organization’s culture and brand—Gray Swoope actually did it. More important, he did it in the right way with professionalism, integrity, trust, and a tireless work ethic. While we will miss Gray’s professional support, vision, and leadership, many of us will miss him more as a friend. We can only hope he will continue to have a huge presence in and for the State of Florida!”
Jeff Hendry, Executive Director, North Florida Economic Development Partnership
“Gray Swoope and his team have helped to turn around the way Florida is viewed by corporate decision makers and site selection consultants as a business destination. It is no exaggeration to say Gray has, by far, had the most positive effect on Florida economic development of any EFI President & CEO to date. Relentless was a word he used often to describe the spirit and drive one must have to succeed. Gray epitomized relentlessness in everything he did, sacrificing every waking moment to the betterment of our state through economic development. We’ll miss Gray’s leadership at EFI, but he has inspired a commitment to excellence culture for this business state and leaves us with a roadmap for success.”
Marc Hoenstine, CEcD, Director, Economic Development, Economic Development, Duke Energy
“I’ve been the Jackson County, Florida economic developer for almost 44 years . . . Gray Swoope has earned a reputation as an ‘economic developer’s economic developer!’”
Bill Stanton, Executive Director, Jackson County Development Council, Inc. (JCDC)
“I’ve known Gray professionally for many years and it was a real treat to get to work with him directly in Florida. He is a consummate professional and extraordinary individual. His success at EFI over the past four years is nothing short of remarkable. He will be missed in many ways.”
Rick Weddle, President and CEO, Orlando Economic Development Commission
“Gray is an economic developer’s economic developer. Gray worked tirelessly on behalf of Florida and remained equally accessible to all 67 counties. He brought a wealth of knowledge and relationships to our state and shared both freely to elevate the economic development competitiveness of all of Florida.”
Beth Kirkland, CEcD, Gadsden County Development Council, Beth Kirkland Consulting, LLC