Toyota is pursuing a site to build a new $1.6 billion factory employing 4,000 high-wage employees. When asked recently if Northwest Florida and Triumph Gulf Coast were pursuing this opportunity, a regional economic development group answered that all big projects are handled by Enterprise Florida.

This answer does not fill me with confidence that Northwest Florida is being well represented. During 2015-2016, Florida entered into incentive commitments with companies totaling $77 million dollars with no money allocated to any county west of Bay County.

The lack of availability of state-supported large tax incentives may be a blessing in disguise for Northwest Florida. A study of the Japanese auto industry in Tennessee asserts “… a state that systematically alters its tax system in efforts to enhance its competitiveness could ultimately discourage business location due to heightened concerns about the state’s overall fiscal stability and health.” Northwest Florida is competitive without tax incentives by providing substantive benefits by using Triumph Gulf Coast funds wisely and augmenting them with other available resources.

Where automobile manufacturers go, their supply chain follows. Clearly it is time for Northwest Florida to look out for itself! This cannot be a nebulous strategic plan but a targeted, multi-company acquisition.

Northwest Florida needs a campaign that creates a committed, integrated community effort with Triumph’s leadership to convince Toyota we are serious.

Robert Raby Bennett, Pensacola