Our Region

Message from the Chairman
Jeffery Q. Jonasen Responds to Critics

Monday, February 13, 2012 7:00 am

The notion that government or any entity alone can, or should, address and solve broad community problems is a pathway to failure. Partnerships between the public, private and civic sectors lead to viable, innovative solutions around the country and the world. According to the National Council for Public-Private Partnerships, a non-profit, non-partisan organization," public-private partnerships best reduce costs, accelerate delivery, create jobs, and transfer risks to the private sector - all while providing high quality projects."

The National Association of State Chief Information Officers found that "effective public-private sector collaboration is often born out of necessity and promotes expediency for both sides to come together to solve a problem and establish order out of chaos - allaying the disruption to the lives of our citizens."

For sure, public-private partnerships are not new to Central Florida. For more than a decade, the public, private and civic sectors have come together to accomplish great things in Central Florida, leveraging limited resources and maximizing civic engagement. In our region, the "WorkForce 2020" initiative brought to the attention of the region's employers the challenges faced by their entry-level workers - housing, child care and transportation - in an effort to find solutions. The "ExtraCredit" project touched more working families, bringing significantly more federal dollars to the local economy by providing assistance in accessing the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). In Orange County alone, EITC utilization grew from just under $300,000 in 2004 to $1.8 million in 2006.

The recent Orlando Sentinel column, "End gravy train of tax dollars to chamber," criticized the regional initiative, "Open for Business," a public-private partnership designed to address the regulatory, resource and government barriers impacting business growth in our region. The coalition was led by several community organizations, including the Central Florida Partnership. As a matter of fact, "Open for Business" was conceived and launched with broad community support, led by volunteer leaders, seeking to serve our family of communities. Each of the community organizations that led the effort made its own independent decision to participate.  At every turn, "Open for Business" has been about exploring ways to accelerate job creation and to encourage job retention.

Broad community efforts like "Open for Business" empower communities to tackle the difficult issues that cut across sectors and that are too complex for one group or organization to address singularly. Every day, local or regional organizations and government entities across America sponsor projects similar to "Open for Business." For example, the upcoming Entrepreneurs Academy, sponsored in part by the City of Orlando, will provide tools and pathways to help drive job growth in our community. Orlando, Inc., a "Line of Business" of the Central Florida Partnership, focuses on connecting entrepreneurs with success. Working with its many volunteer leaders, Orlando, Inc., has the expertise to provide this training effectively, in collaboration with other organizations, to serve the community's needs.

As a reminder, the Central Florida Partnership was formed four years ago by a diverse group of volunteer leaders in order to create a regional organization better positioned to effectively accomplish long term regional goals - to anticipate the complexities of global markets, growth and collaboration and respond with timely and appropriate action to promote economic prosperity and quality of life. The Partnership has four "Lines of Business," each of which is funded in different ways and all of which are included in the Partnership's annual financial audit. The Foundation for Building Community, Inc., is the long standing, non-profit fiduciary vessel through which organizations and governments have sponsored a number of regional projects led by myregion.org, another "Line of Business" of the Central Florida Partnership. One such project led by myregion.org was "How Shall We Grow?", a regional visioning effort engaging tens of thousands of citizens in the process, which has been lauded by local governments and community leaders throughout our seven-county region.

We have separately audited the Foundation for Building Community, Inc., providing an independent financial audit of the Foundation, and of the entire Central Florida Partnership enterprise, to our volunteer leaders as a matter of routine. As a matter of record, Jacob Stuart, president of the Central Florida Partnership, is not a salaried employee of the Foundation for Building Community, Inc., nor has any of his compensation ever been paid by the Foundation for Building Community, Inc. Also, it should be noted that no funds from "Open for Business" were used to pay Mr. Stuart.

"How Shall We Grow?" resulted in a roadmap for regional planning, which today is relied upon by local governments and regional planners. Public and private dollars were used and were meticulously and properly audited and reported. This effort was complex and involved numerous government and community partners; and it was the unique composition of myregion.org that created the platform for diverse interests to tackle the complicated issues and help achieve positive results for our region.

Private organizations frequently come together with government and citizen groups - leveraging perspectives, expertise, and resources - to achieve positive results for the community more effectively and less expensively than any could accomplish alone. The public and private sectors will not always agree, but when they do, they should be encouraged to work together to achieve common goals. If we, as a community, choose to abandon public-private partnerships, then we will have lost a demonstrably effective tool for achieving public good.

So many things are accomplished through a collaborative approach, and so many organizations that make Central Florida a better place to live, work, learn and play are confronting our future needs by working together today. We do not expect everyone to agree with every regional priority of the Central Florida Partnership, or with every initiative undertaken by the Partnership's four "Lines of Business."

However, when we are confronted by challenges or opportunities on which the Partnership, government and cross-sector organizations can effectively cooperate, we should not hesitate to combine our efforts and perspectives, and leverage our resources for the good of the community. If we are reluctant to do that, then our region will have lost a proven method for moving "Ideas to Results; " one which empowers leaders and citizens to identify and solve real problems collaboratively every day across the state and the globe.