TALLAHASSEE - In the four months since the state created 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.
Holmes and Washington Counties are among those awaiting a response on requests, having recently requested $1.9 million in funding for the 79 Corridor project.
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 “Florida Job Growth Grant 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.
Reporter Diane M. Robinson contributed to this report.