TALLAHASSEE — In the four months since the state created the Job Growth Grant Fund — an $85 million pool of money for economic development — more than 160 requests topping $500 million have poured in from local governments, schools and business groups.
Three of the most expensive requests came from the Panhandle:
Milton, for an East Milton water reclamation facility. The plant would handle wastewater for three Santa Rosa County commerce parks and protect the Blackwater River. Request: $21.44 million.
Freeport, for a wastewater treatment plant. The Panhandle community proposes to more than double the capacity of the existing facility. Request: $15.9 million.
Santa Rosa County, for a Whiting Aviation Park expansion. Request: $15.16 million.
So far, none of the proposals — ranging from a $24,110 request from Big Bend Technical College for a new postsecondary adult-vocational program for medical administrative specialists to $25 million to help with a $62.1 million highway overpass in Pasco County — have been forwarded to Gov. Rick Scott for final approval.
“We are working diligently to evaluate the Job Growth Grant Fund proposals and will make recommendations to Gov. Scott, who is authorized to approve projects,” Department of Economic Opportunity spokeswoman Tiffany Vause said in an email. “The growth fund process will be transparent and include strict accountability measures for recipients to safeguard taxpayer dollars.”
The fund was created during a June special legislative session as a compromise between Scott and House leaders, who earlier had sought to eliminate the business-recruitment agency Enterprise Florida and other economic-development programs.
House leaders were heavily focused on ending programs that awarded economic incentives to single companies in return for relocating to Florida or expanding in the state. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, repeatedly called such incentives “corporate welfare.”
Money in the new fund is prohibited from going to projects that provide exclusive benefits to single businesses.
Corcoran has said the new fund will “free up the governor to cut through unnecessary bureaucracy, regulation, and red tape to improve infrastructure and education leading to greater job growth and opportunity for all Floridians.”
The requests are divided into two lists: public infrastructure and workforce grants.
Applications have been made for 81 infrastructure projects with a total price-tag of $1.1 billion. The requests seek grants that would cover $441.2 million of the work.
Another 80 workforce grants have been proposed and collectively seek $121.2 million.
The totals of the funding requests could be higher, as not all the paperwork appears to have been properly filled out. Several applications, for example, list overall project costs, without filing in amounts on the line for the grant request.
Among the biggest requests:
Pasco County, Interstate 75 and Overpass Road interchange. Project cost, $62.1 million. Request: $25 million.
State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota STEM campus. The proposal seek money to help secure land and make other improvements needed to support a campus. Request: $22.44 million.
Marion County, Crossroads Commerce Park. The $272 million project, encompassing more than 900 acres, is envisioned as having distribution, warehouse and manufacturing facilities. Request: $22.24 million.
St. Lucie County, Port of Fort Pierce land acquisition. The county is looking at a $45 million plan to acquire 14 parcels. Request: $18 million.
Kissimmee, Shingle Creek Regional Trail. The trail, an $18.4 million, 32-mile recreational trail through Orange and Osceola counties, would link to the state’s Coast-to-Coast Connector. Request: $17.6 million.
Manatee County Port Authority. The port plans additional cold-storage warehouse space to handle fruit and vegetable imports and to attract additional business. Request: $15 million.
Florida Keys Community College. The Key West school plans to build a dorm for 200 students majoring in culinary, hospitality, marine engineering, diving and other fields tied to the local tourism industry. Request: $15 million.