Florida is ready to pump $74 million into building the state’s workforce, and Gov. Ron DeSantis started the process with nearly $4 million of grants to the city of Port St. Lucie and Chipola College.
The grants are part of the Department of Economic Opportunity’s (DEO) Job Growth Grant Fund, a program that provides infrastructure and workforce incentives to attract businesses to Florida.
DeSantis made a Friday afternoon stop in Marianna at Chipola College to announce a $354,000 grant to expand the college’s cybersecurity program. The program trains students in network security and digital forensics. The funding will be used to support the cost of equipment, personnel, scholarships, training materials and support services.
“Considering the threats we see from nations like China, Russia and Iran, we believe that cybersecurity will continue to be a growing part of our workforce, and I’m proud to announce these funds to equip more Floridians with the skills they need to be a part of this field,” DeSantis said.
The grant awarded to Port St. Lucie Friday morning will go toward development for Tradition Commerce Park. Tradition is a planned community zoned for a mix of uses including office, retail, industrial, multi-family residential and recreation. It spans about 1,247 acres.
The money will be used to build infrastructure to support development within the park, including road, water and sewer improvements. DEO Director Dane Eagle estimated the money would cover half of the improvements needed for the project.
“That’s hugely important, especially as we’re coming out of COVID, to make sure that we are putting our money where our mouth is when it comes to economic development Florida,” Eagle said speaking to reporters Friday.
“The improvements made at Commerce Park through this Job Growth Grant Fund will also bring new businesses to the area and yield a number of jobs, many of them high paying jobs,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis estimated the investment would create 5,000 direct and indirect jobs.
Some companies with planned development in the space include Amazon, Walmart, Tropicana, FedEx, Cleveland Clinic, Accel International, TAMCO and Oculus Surgical, according to a press release from Tambone Companies, the real estate company developing the project.
The checks handed out Friday mark a return for the program, which was nixed last year amid budget cuts. Bracing for pandemic-related economic fallout, DeSantis slashed $1 billion from the budget, including the $20 million set aside for the fund.
But with a better-than-expected state budget last year and more rosy projections ahead, lawmakers put $50 million into the program this year and DeSantis was able to tap $24.4 million left unspent from 2019.
DEO started accepting project proposals for the Job Growth Grant Fund again in early June.
“We at the Department of Economic Opportunity stand ready to assist the Governor’s office in vetting these projects as they come through,” Eagle said.
The fund was created in 2017 after a battle between lawmakers and then-Gov. Rick Scott about business incentives. Scott distributed almost all of the $170 million he got for the fund before leaving office in January 2019.
News Service of Florida contributed to this post. Republished with permission.