TALLAHASSEE (NSF) – Donning his Sunshine State salesman hat, Gov. Rick Scott left Friday for the Paris Air Show for what is likely to be an abbreviated weekend promo.
Scott's trip comes even as lawmakers enter the final week of the special session --- slated to end Friday --- focused on a state spending plan for the fiscal year that ends June 30.
Scott, who is expected to return Monday, is traveling to the 51st International Paris-Le Bourget Air Show with officials from Enterprise Florida and 17 Florida-based companies. The renowned trade show runs from Monday to June 21.
Scott's travel plans should allow him to attend the opening of the Enterprise Florida pavilion at the air show, which includes vendor space --- costing from $8,860 to $21,600 --- for the Florida companies. The first four days of the event are restricted to industry representatives, followed by three days open to the general public.
"Governor Scott is confident this economic development trip will result in job creation for Florida," Scott spokeswoman Jeri Bustamante said in an email.
Enterprise Florida spokeswoman Beth Frady said the agency's staff has lined up more than 40 "one-on-one" business-development meetings during the air show. The show "provides a unique and cost-effective platform for business and trade development in the state," Frady said.
Enterprise Florida claims that the 2013 Paris Air Show, also attended by Scott, generated more than $170 million in export sales for the Florida exhibitors on the trip and spawned more than more than 40 projects involving aviation, aerospace and defense.
According to the organization, Scott's first-term international excursions --- to Panama, Canada, Brazil, Israel, Spain, the United Kingdom, Colombia, Chile, France and Japan --- resulted in sales topping $474 million for the companies that participated in the missions.
The effectiveness of the trips, however, remains suspect to some.
Ben Wilcox, research director of the Tallahassee watchdog group Integrity Florida, wants more details about the trips from Enterprise Florida, which has its expenses covered by private and public dollars.
"I would be skeptical of the numbers provided by Enterprise Florida and would like to see a more specific breakdown of how much in sales each company benefited from," Wilcox said. "There needs to be more transparency and accountability before the public can know whether these missions are justified. The same can be said about Gov. Scott's attendance."
Paris marks Scott's first international business trip since he went to Japan in November 2013. He put such ventures on hold during his re-election bid last year.
Scott's office waited until the final moments before the governor's Friday afternoon departure early to announce he was taking part in the Enterprise Florida trip. Until Thursday, his aides said "it will be a game-time decision" if Scott would embark on the mission while lawmakers were busy finalizing budget details.
The News Service of Florida's Jim Turner contributed to this report.
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