State awards more 'job growth' money

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gov. Rick Scott has one month to spend a little more than $16.6 million in economic-development money after rolling out the latest round of awards on Wednesday.

The governor’s office announced six projects that will collectively receive $9.8 million from the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund, including $860,000 for aviation-maintenance and mechanic-training programs at Florida Gateway College in Lake City; $800,000 to help Charlotte County complete road and infrastructure improvements at Punta Gorda Interstate Airport Park; and $2.3 million for Baker County to create an access road to Woodstock Industrial Park.

The announcement of the projects came a day after Scott told officials at the Walton County Emergency Operations Center that the last of the $85 million in the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund had largely been designated.

But not to worry, Scott told the locals, who were inquiring about state money for road improvements: Another $85 million is awaiting with the start of the state’s next fiscal year. The current fiscal year ends June 30.

“We’ve been able to do a lot of stuff for the rural counties,” Scott said. “We have the money for this fiscal year, but most of it’s allocated. But we’ll have $85 million starting July 1.”

The creation of the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund was a compromise in 2017 after a legislative battle about economic-development funding. Money from the fund is required to go to regional projects, rather than individual businesses.

Scott had sought the money for the business-recruitment agency Enterprise Florida. But led by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, lawmakers objected to incentive money going to specific companies.

Under the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund, money is handled by the state Department of Economic Opportunity, which has received 246 applications, collectively seeking $866 million in assistance.

Applicants that fail to get awards will have to reapply for next fiscal year’s pot of money.

With Wednesday’s announcement, 27 projects worth $68.4 million have been awarded.

The other three projects announced Wednesday were:

  • Eastern Florida State College, for aerospace and advanced manufacturing training, $3.79 million.
  • St. Johns River State College, to expand advanced manufacturing and robotics training, $1.38 million.
  • Florida State College at Jacksonville, to bolster the Northeast Florida Advanced Manufacturing & Logistic Job Growth program, $710,352.

Before Wednesday’s announcement, the state had said awarded projects were expected to create more than 18,600 jobs. Some of the workforce additions may take up to eight years, according to the individual applications.

No job-creation projection was included with the six additional projects.