TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida may award nearly $21 million to a mystery economic development project planned at an airport on the state's east coast.
State legislators will vote Tuesday on whether to go along with Gov. Rick Scott's request to spend the money for "Project Magellan" at the Melbourne International Airport.
If approved, it would mark one of the largest single economic development projects approved during Scott's tenure as governor. Brevard County officials earlier this month voted to award a grant to cover city and county impact fees.
Documents from Space Florida, the state's aerospace economic development arm, show that the company that would receive the money is promising to spend up to $500 million on real estate, equipment and furnishing between now and 2020.
The company would also pledge to hire 250 people by the end of 2014, and hundreds more after that although it's not clear at least from Space Florida documents when the additional employees would have to be in place.
One group critical of the state's economic development efforts said the state should at least identify the company before approving such a large amount of money.
"Shouldn't the public at least be told the name of the company before we give away more than $20 million of our money?" said Dan Krassner, executive director of the watchdog group Integrity Florida. "Deals like this hide too much from taxpayers and go against Florida's open government tradition."
Last year defense contractor Northrop Grumman announced it was bringing more than 1,000 aerospace jobs to the state including in Melbourne.
A Northrop Grumman spokesman told Florida Today last week that he couldn't say whether his company's new building was connected with Project Magellan.
Florida legislators this past year set aside nearly $74 million in one of the main economic development pots of money used by Scott and the state's economic development agency.
So far, $33.3 million has been released. The Legislative Budget Commission is required to vote on "Project Magellan" because the economic development award is more than $5 million.
There has been criticism over how many high-profile economic development deals have gone bust. Just last week it was reported Time Warner is closing a shared services center in Tampa. Back in 2011 Scott held a news conference to tout the planned facility. The Tampa Bay Times reported that none of the state incentives promised to Time Warner have been paid out.
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