Republican Adam Putnam brought his “Florida First” campaign for governor to downtown Pensacola Wednesday morning, for a lunch appearance before a local civic club.
Speaking to the Panhandle Tiger Bay Club, Putnam outlined his agenda if he succeeds Rick Scott as Florida’s governor. For one thing, he wants to get it across to students that a four-year university degree is not the end all-be all for a successful career.
“As someone who came up through vocational [and] agriculture courses,” said Putnam, “I believe we should put technical, career and vocational education back into the middle school; back into the high school, and stop treating our community and state colleges like a red-headed stepchild.”
A “Florida First” education system, says Putnam, is about attracting great teachers who share what he calls “good core values; and to have students develop into good citizens through civics courses, and have access to vocational education programs.
“This is not 1950s shop; this is coding, this is robotics,” said Putnam, 43. “But no one is telling these students today that a starting service tech at the Ford dealership might make $50,000 [per year]. That the number one job vacancy every month for a decade in Florida – is nursing.”
On the issue of Florida’s infrastructure, Putnam, currently the state’s Agriculture Commissioner, says while road and bridges are vital, there’s more to it than asphalt and steel.
“Water in Florida is our golden goose; it’s the key to tourism. Waterways, our rivers, our springs – it’s why people visit,” Putnam said. “Ask a realtor – it’s what adds value to property. It’s the key to a $100 billion dollar a year agriculture industry; it’s the key to growth.”
According to Putnam, every corner of Florida is in some form of conflict when it comes to water policy. He says the message must go out, that water policy in Florida does not begin and end with the Everglades.
“There’s Apalachicola Bay, Perdido Bay; 43 first-magnitude springs – the Apalachicola [River],” Putnam said. “And there are different solutions required, depending on the region of the state. There’s a difference in water issues between south of [Interstate] 10 and north of 10. You see that conflict on a regular basis.”
For many around the country who are approaching retirement, Florida is their reward for a lifetime of work. Putnam wants to build on that and other existing industries such as tourism, fisheries, agriculture and construction -- but also develop elsewhere.
“Manufacturing; aviation and aerospace; financial services. Look at what you’re doing with Navy Federal [Credit Union],” said Putnam. “These are the types of jobs that diversify our economy, and create the kind of opportunities that make Florida, if we put Florida first, the launch pad for the American dream. But it requires conservative leadership to do that.”
In wrapping up his 20-minute address, Adam Putnam said under Republican Gov. Rick Scott, the state has gone from the brink of economic disaster as a result of the Great Recession, to what Putnam calls “the envy of the nation.”
“Three and a half percent unemployment on average statewide; I was an economics major at Florida and we were taught four percent was full employment,” said Putnam. And the third largest state is below that on average. We’ve paid off five billion dollars in debt; crime is at a 46-year low. But we can’t say that complacence and inertia are a strategy.”
Adam Putnam is joined by Cong. Ron DeSantis on the GOP primary ballot. Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum head the Democratic field.