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Reporter: This is NPR News.
I’m Rebecca Katz.
This is SCIENCE FRIDAY.
I have a story about the state of Florida.
A new report says that Florida is finally catching up to the rest of the country.
I spoke with Greg Pazder, a political scientist at Florida Atlantic University, who studies the Sunshine State.
Pazdar says Florida is catching up with many other states.
And we know that in some ways that’s not surprising, because it’s not a very conservative state.
It’s not the kind of state that was traditionally so conservative.
And so we’re not seeing the same growth in the size of the state’s economy, and it’s certainly not the same kind of economic growth as the rest, he says.
In other words, you have to be able to get a good job in Florida to get ahead.
So Florida is the most unequal state in the country, and when you look at the data, it shows that, when you compare it to other states, Florida’s inequality is a lot higher.
Pazader says it’s hard to see how the Sunshine state could ever make it to its full potential as a place to live and prosper.
But he says that’s exactly what happened.
Florida’s growth over the last few decades has been extraordinary.
It has become a manufacturing powerhouse, and we are in the midst of a major economic recovery.
But in many other places in the United States, we are now seeing similar stagnation and decline.
I know from my own research that this is not only because the economy is so good, but because a lot of our most productive industries have left the state.
And that’s what’s happening in Florida.
There are now only about 20,000 manufacturing jobs in Florida, and a huge number of those are located in Florida’s interior.
In fact, Florida is home to more than half the manufacturing plants in the world, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau.
And this is all happening at a time when other states are starting to recover.
So what’s going on here is a long-term economic slowdown, Pazson says.
There’s been a real slowdown in manufacturing employment over the past couple of decades, which is why so many of our other states seem to be doing quite well, he adds.
But Florida has seen an increase in its manufacturing workforce since 2000.
And now we’re in the process of seeing a slowdown of that.
PAZDER: The U.N. is saying that the U .
S. must boost the number of jobs in the solar industry to help revive the state, Pazzter says.
It could be the only thing that can save Florida from the economic death spiral.
So, what’s the best way to get the state back on track?
Well, there are a couple of ways.
One, we could make sure that the incentives that are in place to create jobs are there.
And two, we should do more to support the solar companies.
These are the jobs that people need to create in Florida right now.
That’s what Pazner says is a critical first step.
But it could be harder.
Solar panel manufacturers in Florida have been losing jobs to cheaper Chinese competitors, Puzder says.
They’re seeing huge increases in prices and have had to raise prices by as much as 100 percent to keep up with them.
Puzter says that could force the state to make changes that could boost the state economy.
PZAZDER : And so this is an important moment.
The sunbelt states have been struggling.
We have the biggest budget gap in the U, Pzazder says, with $100 billion in projected spending cuts.
PULSAUGH: And the federal government is saying we have to come up with an extra $100.
PIZAZDER and PULAHY: Yes.
PZZAZDER says that there are other ways to help Florida get back on its feet.
One is by making sure that there is a fair share of tax revenue going to the state government.
Pizazder wants to see the state invest more in infrastructure.
Pzaza says Florida has a great track record of doing that.
It invests more in roads and bridges, which helps create jobs.
But the federal Government does not like it.
So if you look back to 2000 and 2000, the federal budget was actually cut.
And the last thing we need is to be borrowing more money from the Federal Government.
Pulahy says that is a huge problem in Florida because there is no revenue to spend.
She says that has led to a growing debt crisis.
PYZAZDR: And if we’re going to get this economy going again, then we’ve got to help people and make sure they have the tools they need to succeed.
PUSHING THE DATE FOR NEW JOBS