Letter to the Editor by John Tonnison, president of Florida Competes and executive vice president and chief information officer of Tech Data

Tampa Bay Times

October 15, 2019

As Florida’s economy has risen from the Great Recession and grown to create millions of new jobs and opportunities, we have proudly proclaimed that the Sunshine State is open for business. Now, as we look to continue Florida’s strong economic growth, we must make it clear that our “open for business” mantra is all-inclusive and welcoming.

This recent article highlighted the Florida Competitive Workforce Act (SB 206/HB 161), a much-needed, pro-business economic issue that is smart for Florida businesses.

In fact, a recent Public Religion Research Institute poll shows that 65 percent of people in the Tampa Bay area favor nondiscrimination laws protecting their LGBT neighbors, with 68 percent in support statewide. Florida is in close competition with other states for qualified workers, and without the Competitive Workforce Act, we are certain to fall behind other states that already have anti-discrimination laws in place.

The Competitive Workforce Act is supported by Florida Competes, a coalition of 35 top employers in the state and 11 Fortune 500 companies, including Tampa Bay area-based Carlton Fields, DTCC, HSN, Marriott, Mise en Place, Raymond James, the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, Tech Data and the University of South Florida’s Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Equal Opportunity. The reason these organizations strongly support this bill is simple: The Competitive Workforce Act reflects the best practices in hiring among Fortune 500 companies, 83 percent of which already provide comprehensive protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

It’s time for Florida to stand by all those whose work has lifted the state to new economic success. Let’s do the right thing and finally pass the Competitive Workforce Act.

John TonnisonClearwater

The writer is president of Florida Competes and executive vice president and chief information officer of Tech Data.