It is time to bid a fond farewell to Bill Johnson, Florida’s high-wage job creator.</p><p>Bill, we hardly knew ye.</p><p>It was only 17 months ago when Johnson became the president of Enterprise Florida, that public-private venture tasked with turning the state into a haven for high-paying jobs.</p><p>Johnson, to his credit, led by example.</p><p>After collecting a $914,915 lump sum pension payment from his public-sector jobs with Miami-Dade County, Johnson was tapped by the governor last year to head Enterprise Florida at a salary of $265,000 a year, which didn’t include an additional $600-per-month for car expenses.</p><p>Johnson must have gotten off to a blazing start, because after six months on the job, he collected a $50,000 bonus, which was half of the $100,000 bonus payments built into his contract.</p><p>Some people might quibble with this sort of generous reward system, especially seeing as how Enterprise Florida has been far better at creating job announcements than actual jobs. And that the agency has returned more than $100 million in state allocations it couldn’t spend, while being rebuffed by the state legislature for asking for $250 million more this year.</p><p>Legislators have been unimpressed. Or as Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, pointedly told Johnson at a legislative hearing:</p><p>“In my community, I’m not seeing this big splurge of jobs, and I’m really not seeing high-paying jobs,” she said. “I’m seeing a lot of hospitality and those are not high-paying jobs.”</p><p>Clearly, Detert hasn’t been looking in the right places. Hospitality pays. Just look at how hospitable Johnson has been to a former Miami co-worker, Paula Musto.</p><p>Johnson hired Musto as a speechwriter and consultant for Enterprise Florida, a pretty sweet job that pays $158,000 a year. And, as the Naples Daily News reported, a job that sidestepped the bid process by having her pay divided in two lesser amounts and then categorizing her duties under the heading that covers “artistic services.”</p><p>Explaining Enterprise Florida does take a bit of artistry.</p><p>Take for example, the California-based bio-tech research firm Sanford Burnham, which was lured to Florida 10 years ago with $320 million in state and local tax incentives. In return, the company had to create 303 high-paying jobs in its Central Florida lab.</p><p>That condition was never met during the past 10 years. And it won’t be. This year, the company announced that it plans to abandon its Florida operation and transfer its facility to the University of Florida, a public institution with a workforce on the public payroll.</p><p>This has led Florida’s Budget Director Cynthia Kelly to write a letter to the company that wondered aloud how an initiative to create private-sector jobs could end up being a non-budgeted authorization for highly paid public-sector employees.</p><p>“Please explain how it is a good deal for the state to add new state employees as the end result of the state’s $155 million investment?” Kelly wrote.</p><p>I guess this is why you need an “artistic services” speechwriter at Enterprise Florida, which is in itself a public-private partnership that was supposed to be equally supported, but has come to rely on 90 percent of its money from the public.</p><p>Even Gov. Rick Scott, the most relentless cheerleader for throwing money at private companies to get them to move to Florida, has grudgingly adopted the philosophy of the Republican-led state legislature that Enterprise Florida ought to be on a shorter leash.</p><p>So I can’t blame Johnson for calling it quits so soon.</p><p>He put in his last day Friday, leaving with a severance payment of $132,500 — a small token of appreciation for giving us Floridians some of the best months of his life.</p><p>Frank Cerabino writes for The Palm Beach Post. Email: frank_cerabino@pbpost.com</p><p> </p>

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