The Triumph Gulf Coast legislation outlines the general guidelines of how $1.5 billion in the BP oil spill settlement will be spent to bolster the local economy and tourism. It calls for the release of $300 million from state coffers to the eight Panhandle counties most affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil spill. After that, $100 million is slated to be paid out to the counties through 2033.
WEST BAY — The $1.5 billion in BP oil spill settlement money coming to the Panhandle through 2033 should help reel in new industries to the Panhandle, creating thousands of new jobs and diversifying the local economy, Gov. Rick Scott said in a visit to Bay County on Monday.
Scott was surrounded by more than 100 locals and a wide range of elected officials and business leaders during the ceremonial signing of the Triumph Gulf Coast legislation. The governor made his comments in a tent across the street from the future GKN Aerospace manufacturing facility that is under construction in the Venture Crossings Enterprise Center at the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport. Scott pointed out $50 million is being spent to construct the manufacturing facility, which is expected to generate 170 new jobs.
“We have that opportunity all across the Panhandle now, (providing) economic incentives where we work to create an environment where people can come here and build their businesses,” Scott said. “It works. There is no reason the Panhandle shouldn’t do really well with new jobs as we spend this money, so I’m very optimistic.”
As the session was winding down, there were concerns the Triumph legislation — a pair of House bills (HB 7077 and HB 7079) — might not pass. A week before the session ended, state Rep. Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City, who was on hand for Monday’s ceremony, said language inserted by state Sen. George Gainer, R-Panama City, at the last minute to allow the funds to be spent on direct economic incentive payments to companies was a “deal killer.” Gainer eventually backed off that language, saying he believes there is enough language in the legislation allowing funds to be spent on infrastructure and that it should suffice to attract new companies. And Gainer agreed to add language in the Senate bill to match language in the House allowing the Triumph funds to be spent on tourism marketing.
The Triumph Gulf Coast legislation outlines the general guidelines of how $1.5 billion in the BP oil spill settlement will be spent to bolster the local economy and tourism. It calls for the release of $300 million from state coffers to the eight Panhandle counties most affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil spill, Bay included. After that, $100 million is slated to be paid out to the counties through 2033.
“This is an unbelievable opportunity to diversify this economy if this money is spent well,” Scott said.
Allan Bense, a Panama City resident and former speaker of the House, serves as chairman of the Triumph Gulf Coast board the Legislature formed to vote on which projects are funded from the settlement. He said Monday many legislators outside of the Panhandle were interested in having the Triumph funds go to their districts.
“There were a lot of people with hungry eyes looking at that $300 million, and I want to congratulate our legislative delegation for preserving that money,” Bense said.
Gainer thanked Scott personally for not allowing the funds to be funneled to other areas of the state.
“We have really got a great governor who has kept everybody shooed off this money ever since it landed in Tallahassee,” Gainer said. “Most of us would have never thought we’d have seen this day, and I know that the county commissioners never thought that they’d get to participate in this to this extent.”
Gainer added a last-minute amendment to the legislation that gives county commissions the right to identify projects they would like to see funded by a percentage of the Triumph dollars.
Trumbull, who filed the Triumph bills in the House, said it’s about time the funds come to the Panhandle.
“Seven years ago our hard-working families, businesses and tourism industry witnessed one of the worst national disasters in our country’s history,” he said.
State Rep. Brad Drake said “this is a great day today.”
“For 87 long days this community went through a tragedy unlike none we could ever envision,” Drake said. “The whole world was watching ,but we never gave up. We never gave in.”
Sen. Bill Montford — a Tallahassee Democrat whose district includes Gulf, Franklin and Wakulla counties — said the bill signing is a “special day because we are finally going to get the remedy that we have needed and has been ours for quite some time.”