Jobs Are No. 1 Priority for Florida's Citizens

02/03/2010 01:42 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Florida has been hit especially hard by the recession, shedding the highest number of jobs across the country - nearly 17,000 - last November, making it one of the worst-hit states in the nation. I know, because many of them are members of my union.

But Florida public officials have a chance to turn things around.

I outline the path to recovery -- via the state's largest utility -- in an op-ed I wrote for Tallahassee Democrat this week.

The Florida Power and Light Company (FPL) have placed a $1.2 billion rate increase request before the Public Service Commission. That sounds like a big number, and some prominent opponents, including the head of the Office of Public Counsel and several political candidates, have raised their voices. But make no mistake -- rejecting this increase would mean losing a golden opportunity to create jobs, promote consumer savings and strengthen Florida's economic future.

The small increase will led to creation of at least ten thousand good-paying construction jobs almost immediately, while laying the groundwork for thousands of utility jobs in the near future.

The rate increase would provide FPL the immediate funds needed to make renovations and modernizations throughout its system to provide Floridians with the power they need...

Such a modern, safe and reliable infrastructure requires a major commitment by FPL to train a new generation of line workers and other skilled personnel to replenish an aging work force. In 2009 alone, 175 line workers were lost to attrition. A rate increase will provide a boost to maintaining the high standards of the work force that state residents rely upon for vital services, including extraordinary efforts during storms and outages.

The modernization will also translate into long-term savings for the consumer as it will allow FPL to double its energy efficiency factor.

The state's Public Service Commission will meet on Monday to discuss the issue.

To read the whole editorial, click here.