CHIPLEY - Florida Panhandle Technical College (FPTC) has big plans to further the college's contribution to economic development should the state approve a request for $9.1 million in funding through the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund.

The $85 million fund was created last year as a compromise after a legislative battle about economic-development incentives.

The college applied for funds to construct the FPTC 3D Health Institute and FPTC 3D Welding Institute, proposals which are expected to boost the workforce through expanded education opportunities in some of the fastest growing career fields.

$5.9 million was requested for the 3D Health Institute, which includes the cost of constructing a 30,000 square-foot facility which will include the college's existing healthcare-based programs such as Hemodialysis, Practical Nursing, and Medical Billing and Coding, as well as five proposed new programs. New classrooms and laboratories would include Surgical Technician, Medical Assisting, Medical Laboratory Assisting, Electrocardiograph Technology, and Advanced Manufacturing and Production Technology - 3D Additive Manufacturing.

"The health care workforce is important to the state's rural economy and our rural area of opportunity," said FPTC Director Martha Compton. "With careful planning and training, the postsecondary institutions can meet local, regional, and state healthcare needs and provide opportunities for panhandle students of all backgrounds with good jobs and wages."

FPTC applied for $3.2 million to construct the 3D Welding Institute, a 12,500 square-foot facility which would house an expansion of the college's existing Welding Technology and Advanced Welding Technology programs, as well as a proposed new Advanced Manufacturing and Production Technology - 3D additive Manufacturing program.

Compton says like healthcare fields, the manufacturing workforce is important to the state's rural economy and growth opportunities.

"Jobs in welding span different industries," said Compton. "The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 15 percent growth rate in the welding sector between 2010 and 2024. It is also estimated that an additional 50,000 welding positions will be added during the decade."

Governor Rick Scott last year initially requested $85 million to go to Enterprise Florida to help attract businesses. The Florida Job Growth Grant Fund was a compromise that requires money to go to regional projects rather than single businesses.

Since being created during a special legislative session in June, the fund had attracted 217 proposals worth a combined $757 million as of Tuesday.

The state began awarding grants earlier this week with Manatee Technical College becoming the first recipient, with the state approving a $201,500 to help pay for workforce training programs in manufacturing.

In another notable grant request, Holmes and Washington County officials are also hopeful the state will approve a $2 million application to help fund the Highway 79 Corridor Project.

Jim Turner of The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.