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Governor Scott warns push to end Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida could hurt Palm Beach County

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Posted at 7:17 PM, Feb 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-15 19:18:38-05

Governor Scott called a meeting in Riviera Beach with county and community leaders, saying a Republican-led effort to stop business incentives and tourism marketing could be devastating for the county's tourism economy. 

Lawmakers are discussing a bill that would get rid of Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. Supporters of the bill say the two programs are a waste taxpayer money. Opponents argue that they create thousands of jobs and bring in billions of dollars in revenue every year in Palm Beach County. 

Visit Florida markets the state and draws in tourists through ad campaigns. Enterprise Florida offers incentives to convince companies to move to Florida, creating more jobs in the state. 

"This idea that we don't have to market, it doesn't make any since," Governor Rick Scott said. "These are just politicians in Tallahassee that are not thinking about us." 

Business Development Board of Palm Beach County President and CEO Kelly Smallridge says she's already seeing issues locally.

"We are very afraid that business is going to become very stagnant, our leads are going to come to a halt," Smallridge said. "And while we have been leading the state and Florida's been leading the country, we've seen a significant decrease in the number of companies that are willing to move to Palm Beach County because of the rhetoric that's taking place in Tallahassee right now." 

Discover the Palm Beaches President and CEO Jorge Pesquera says if Visit Florida goes away, the county's local tourism marketing program could, too. Discover the Palm Beaches relies on Visit Florida's partnership and ad campaigns to help pull in visitors.

"Eliminating destination marketing is a big gamble," Pesquera said. "It's a big gamble that says, 'I'm going to bet that by not promoting the state of Florida, people are just going to show up.' If you build them, they're not just going to show up. That's a fantasy."

If Visit Florida goes away, Discover The Palm Beaches estimates more than ten hotels would shut down, three-million less visitors would visit the county every year, and 31,000 jobs could be lost.