“We want to see Florida grow from the 17th largest economy in the world to 10th largest economy, and the defense industry will help diversify and help fuel this growth,” said Mark Wilson, President and CEO, Florida Chamber of Commerce.
Today marks to start of the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Military, Defense and Veterans Opportunities Summit. The event, taking place in Jacksonville, brings together industry leaders, economic development experts, policymakers and leaders from the business community to discuss the opportunities and challenges to diversifying Florida’s economy and leveraging veteran’s expertise and skills.
Discussions on expanding the military and defense industry, as well as supporting Florida’s growing veterans’ population, are topping discussions during the first day of the summit. The Sunshine State's veteran population continues to grow, with around 1,525,400 veterans residing in the state of Florida.
Both Wilson and Major General, U.S. Army (Ret.) Michael D. Jones, a headlining speaker, also focused on how the 2022 expiration of the moratorium on oil drilling could be harmful to Florida’s military bases.
“Think about the importance of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. If you’ve not been following what Congress is not doing, the moratorium on oil drilling ends in 2022. If Congress doesn’t deal with the moratorium expiring in 2022, we could have drilling nine miles off our coast,” Wilson added.
Major General Jones also urged Military, Defense and Veterans Opportunities Summit attendees to remain vigilant on the rebuilding of Tyndall Air Force Base. He noted that there is a commitment to rebuilding Tyndall though the reality is we need to be cautious. “If we don’t think there are others out there who are competing, who would like to see those F-35 squadrons go elsewhere, I think we’re being naïve,” he said.
Day 2 will include a special focus on Florida’s military communities, and a legislative discussion on expanding Florida’s military and defense industry and supporting Florida’s growing veteran population
Tomorrow's speakers include Senator Doug Broxson, Rep. David Smith, and Ken Lawson, Executive Director, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
The two-day summit is set to conclude on August 14.
For a list of speakers, click HERE.
For the full agenda, click HERE.