Florida Council of 100’s ‘Project Sunrise’ Charts Comprehensive Roadmap for State’s Economic Future

April 23, 2019

Study identifies priority areas for effective business climate

Preparing Florida to grow, diversify, and strengthen its economy for resilience even in the kind of turbulent periods that marked the first two decades of the 21st century, the Florida Council of 100 today announced the release of its eagerly awaited Project Sunrise report. The detailed economic study provides a comprehensive dive into the opportunities and challenges facing Florida leaders in the decades ahead – a virtual GPS to roadmap the state’s best economic future.

Even as Florida continues to ascend from the Great Recession as an economic powerhouse and a leader in quality of life and economic productivity, the Project Sunrise report finds that the state must work toward improving its advantageous “tradeable sectors” – those that sell goods or services that can be easily exported. The detailed report identifies six key strategic goals, with 20 policy options and 90 suggested initiatives for achieving these goals. As Florida moves to strengthen and modernize its economy, the report says, those golden opportunities for the Sunshine State are: human capital, strategic repositioning, state and local economic development organizations, public investment, research and development (R&D) and innovation, and health.

FC100 has been a leading nonpartisan organization of business and civic leaders for almost 60 years. Project Sunrise is a present-day policy framework intended to provide a starting point for policymakers to ultimately lead Florida to optimal economic performance, said Chris Corr, FC100 Chair.

“Given Florida’s maturity as a worldwide economic powerhouse in recent years, we have a unique opportunity to lead and chart a path to help Florida become that ‘It’ State – the place where dynamic and exciting innovations lead the way,” said Corr. “With this framework, Florida can apply the proper mix of talents, efforts, and resources to drive the state’s economy to thrive, en route to an improved quality of life for our citizens.”

Improving Florida’s economic output and business climate requires a comprehensive and integrated policy approach that combines multiple areas of influence that often are siloed by traditional economic development strategy. Project Sunrise attempts to break down the walls and integrate all of the considerations that are critical to the quality of life – including business climate, tax, regulatory, environmental, infrastructure, education, health, livability, and more.

“Simply put, the policy ways of the past are not necessarily adequate for present-day Florida,” said Corr. “Project Sunrise is intended to provoke this point to create a better path forward.”

The study lays out six broad goals:

  • Human capital – Make Florida the place where talent Develop the state’s talent pipeline and better match talent supply with economic demand.

  • Strategic repositioning – Strategically reposition Florida’s image and reputation as the place to thrive. Shape the national narrative on Florida using a comprehensive re-branding strategy focused on proof points that Florida is the place to thrive.

  • Economic development organizations (EDOs) – Create high-performance organizational Rethink the structure and role of the state’s EDOs to maximize effectiveness based on best practices.

  • Public investment – Grow the pie and maximize Apply public funding in a way that maximizes economic impact and increases available funds without raising taxes.

  • R&D and innovation – Help innovation Promote Florida as the capital of innovation: one of the most desirable, predictable, and highest yielding opportunities for capital investment in the world.

  • Health – Make Florida the world’s health capital. Establish goals and policies that lead to Florida being recognized as the healthiest place to live in the world, including leveraging the state’s existing strengths and assets to create a high-performing, high-talent health care, healthy communities, and health innovation sector that competes at the global scale.

“Countless bookcases are filled with reports that provide a snapshot of a moment in time and then sit around gathering dust – but Project Sunrise is not one of them,” said Syd Kitson, Vice Chair of FC100. “This tells us where we are, but it also provides specific strategies to guide and boost us to where we need to be. Project Sunrise shows the path to sustained economic prosperity for Florida and its growing population.”

The report notes that the joint and individual efforts of government agencies, top business leaders, and local nonprofit organizations have made Florida one of the most economically competitive states and a global powerhouse. The state has the fastest projected GDP and population growth in the nation; has low unemployment and positive job growth; boasts a highly ranked business climate (No. 7 in the U.S. according to Forbes magazine); and has a low tax burden, including the No. 4 overall tax climate and No. 1 individual tax climate.

“Florida has so much going for it, blessed both by nature and the exceptional people who call this state home. But we cannot sit back and assume things will always be good,” said Will Weatherford, an FC100 board member and a leader in the report’s development. “Project Sunrise will show us the way to develop an economic base that will sustain us for years to come.”

The mission ahead is to follow the strategies to transform the state’s economy into one that surely grows, but also excels. This includes:

  • A diversified economy that easily withstands economic shocks

  • A world-renowned business climate that attracts top talent and companies

  • High salaries driven by growth in high-wage jobs and sectors

  • An economy that uses emerging technologies to keep pace with S. and global markets

  • A talent pipeline that fully delivers a competitive workforce

  • An optimized labor market that matches supply and demand across skills with minimal unemployment and underemployment

Among specific policy initiatives identified in the study are:

  • Retain and engage Florida’s top talent through retention incentives

  • Aggressively promote Florida’s identity globally as a hemispheric hub for trade and investment

  • Put the “private” back in private-public partnerships

  • Reorganize and rebrand Enterprise Florida, to pursue a more focused mandate

  • Make targeted infrastructure investments to catalyze certain regions and/or sectors

  • Improve the predictability of the regulatory process related to capital investment


The Project Sunrise report includes regional assessments, highlighting strengths and opportunities for several of Florida’s major economic hubs. These include:

South Florida

Project Sunrise sees a business marketing effort to complement VISIT FLORIDA’s tourism marketing – a world-class marketing engine to execute data-driven branding strategies and position South Florida as a global hub for commerce. South Florida’s population is booming, with international migration making up for residents who move to other parts of the U.S. South Florida is among the most connected regions in the flow of foreign- born residents, but lags in exports and finance activity, which weighs down economic growth. While most of South Florida’s sectors are growing faster than the national average, only two are tradeable, leaving South Florida vulnerable as it was during the Great Recession.


Project Sunrise recommends that the Orlando area provide greater support for R&D and innovation by increasing access to capital and providing greater support to startups. The tourism-rich Orlando area is especially challenged by its lack of tradeable sectors. Reliance on industries such as real estate, construction, and retail trade increases the area’s vulnerability to economic downturns. On the other hand, growing clusters in information, professional services, and wholesale trade represent sectors that the area can build on.

Speeding up the adoption of business innovations is a proven way to boost productivity, and Project Sunrise recommends several ways Orlando can promote innovation and capitalize on new technologies. Information and technology are an emerging area of strength where the area has the potential to lead – Florida is currently in a leadership position in virtual reality and augmented reality, high-wage sectors that are resilient to recessions.

Tampa Bay

Report recommendations related to Tampa Bay include: leveraging the existing university and college system to increase the output of high-caliber talent; attracting more outside talent; increasing the labor force participation rate by creating career pathways for unemployed and under-employed residents; and creating incentives to retain talented workers in the region. Tampa Bay’s economy is relatively diverse, with several clusters of tradeable sectors that make the area more resilient to recession – including wholesale trade, information, professional services, finance and insurance, and management. However, the region’s educational institutions could better align their degree programs with the current and future needs of the region’s employers, the Project Sunrise study shows.


Project Sunrise shows that Jacksonville will benefit from a number of labor trends in the future. With its economy forecast to grow at nearly twice the pace of the U.S. in the next five years, Jacksonville will experience population growth and added diversity from people moving largely from other parts of the country. This, coupled with a low high school dropout rate (when compared with peers and the national average), indicates ongoing benefits to the labor force. The region should take advantage of labor force trends and increase its focus on growing industries in tradeable sectors, such as health, to build resiliency against periods of decline in the economy.

About the Florida Council of 100

Formed in 1961, the Florida Council of 100 is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of business, civic, and academic leaders. It exists to improve the quality of life and economic well-being of all Floridians through the relentless pursuit of better, business-driven public policy. Visit for more information.

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400 North Tampa Street
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Media contact:

© 2024. The Florida Council of 100