The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity will award $3.4 million to support various military projects at defense installations across the state, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Wednesday.
The bulk of the funding will go toward North Florida installations including the Camp Blanding Joint Training Center in Starke, Naval Air Station Jacksonville and Naval Station Mayport.
Clay County, where Camp Blanding is located, will receive roughly $865,000 for facility maintenance and future development, including the expansion of a buffer area around the base.
“This is the main site for Florida’s National Guard,” DeSantis told reporters at the training base. “It’s important that its security be maintained. We want to prevent encroaching development that could undermine that perimeter.”
The city of Jacksonville, meanwhile, will receive two separate grants: $450,000 for NAS Jax and $90,000 for NS Mayport.
Jacksonville will use the funds to acquire property around NAS JAX. The city will also use the funds to support shipbuilding and maintenance efforts at NS Mayport.
The goal, DeSantis said, is to once against host a nuclear aircraft carrier in the Jacksonville region.
“As somebody who served on active duty at Naval Station Mayport and did a lot of time at NAS Jacksonville as well, those are both installations that are close to my heart,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis, a Navy veteran, highlighted the role of the Florida National Guard and emphasized Camp Blanding’s significance.
The 73,000-acre property, he said, is the “heartbeat” of Florida National Guard operations.
“This is a site that was used all the way back in World War II,” DeSantis noted. “It really does have a storied history. We want to maintain its upkeep and this investment will really help meet both of those needs.”
Speaking alongside DeSantis, Department of Economic Opportunity Secretary Dane Eagle said the announcement is about more than military funding. The funding, he highlighted, supports economic development and job creation in the region.
“Clay County is small but mighty,” Eagle said. “What they’re doing for our military installations, our military, veterans and beyond, is so important to this community and Northeast Florida as a whole.”
Northwest Florida will also get a slice of the funding.
Speaking in Milton, DeSantis highlighted the region’s support of active duty military operations. Notably, 20% of all naval flight hours are conducted at Naval Air Station Whiting Field.
The Northwest Florida contribution are as follows:
– $300,000 to Santa Rosa County for property easement purchases around Whiting Field to bolster the buffer zone.
– $300,000 to Escambia County for property easement purchases around NAS Pensacola to ensure “operational sustainability.”
– $90,000 to Okaloosa County for economic diversification near Eglin Air Force Base.
– $90,000 to the Pensacola Chamber of Commerce to train transitioning veterans into high skill jobs.
– $60,000 to Santa Rosa County to promote development of Whiting Aviation Park.
“Northwest Florida is one of the strongest military communities anywhere in the country,” DeSantis said alongside lawmakers including Republican Rep. Alex Andrade. “We appreciate all the services who are here…. We understand (it) enriches our community to have active duty folks stationed here. It also helps out local economy.”
Grant funding is provided by the Defense Infrastructure Grant Program, the Defense Reinvestment Grant Program and the Florida Defense Support Task Force grant program.