PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Florida Gov. Rick Scott sent a personal letter to a Rhode Island hedge fund manager in an attempt to convince him to move his business to the Sunshine State, WPRI.com has learned.
In the Feb. 1 letter to Russell Jeffrey, CEO of Providence Investment Management, Scott touted his efforts to make Florida the most business-friendly state in the country, which he said includes reducing the "size, cost, and scope of government in order to expand opportunities for entrepreneurs."
"So, as you endure winter's cold, dark days, feel free to dream about the Sunshine State's great beaches, weather, and seafood," Scott wrote. "Then take a moment to learn how you can enjoy these amenities every day simply by moving your business to Florida."
In addition to not having an income tax, Scott said Florida's business taxes have been reduced by more than $1 billion since he took office in 2011. He also explained that Florida's teachers were ranked tops in the country in 2012 by the National Council on Teacher Quality and said the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ranked the state first for workforce development and training.
Jeffrey's $1.3 billion mortgage backed securities hedge fund was ranked No. 5 on Bloomberg Market's list of the 100 Top-Performing Large Hedge Funds in 2010. He ranked No. 21 on Forbes' list of the 40 highest-earning hedge fund managers.
In 2010, Jeffrey contributed $100,000 to Americans for Common Sense Solutions, a super PAC that targeted Congressman David Cicilline. WPRO-AM radio host John Loughlin first reported on the existence of Scott's letter.
Jeffrey did not respond to a request for comment.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Lincoln Chafee said the governor was not upset with Scott's letter and said those recruitment practices are common in the business community.
"Rhode Island is making remarkable progress on making its business climate more friendly," Christine Hunsinger, the governor's communications director, told WPRI.com. "The governor's budget cuts the corporate tax, which has been something the business community wanted to see for a while."
State officials have been grappling with ways to turn around the state's struggling economy and reduce the 10.2% unemployment rate. In a study released last week , Pittsburgh-based Fourth Economy Consulting said the state's is being held back by taxes, regulations and too many high school dropouts.
Hunsinger said Chafee is committed to working with business leaders to improving the economy.
"The business community has consistently asked for predictability, certainty and sustainability and the governor has made that a priority," she said.