An $85 million dollar grant program approved by the Legislature during last month’s special session to promote economic development in Florida is officially in business.
Gov. Rick Scott announced Wednesday morning that Enterprise Florida and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) are accepting applications for the state’s new Job Growth Grant Fund.
“With more than 1.37 million jobs created across our state since December 2010 and the lowest unemployment rate in nearly 10 years, it is clear that Florida’s economy has experienced incredible growth,” said Gov. Rick Scott. “However, we are competing against other states and countries for new jobs, and we must aggressively fight to make Florida the best destination for business.”
The grant program was part of a budget compromise reached between Scott and legislative leaders following this year’s regular session. Lawmakers had gutted funding for Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida in the budget plan they approved. They wanted to avoid the perception that the state was providing “corporate welfare” to private businesses in order to bring new jobs to the state.
Funding both agencies was among the governor’s budget priorities. Scott argued the cuts in spending for the two agencies would hurt the state’s economic growth.
After legislative leaders reached a compromise with Scott, lawmakers returned to Tallahassee for a special session last month to restore funding for Visit Florida and to create the $85 Florida Job Growth Grant Fund.
The fund, which is considered the first of its kind, is designed to help economic development projects while improving flexibility and transparency in the process. It’s designed to provide assistance to projects that promote infrastructure improvement or job training to encourage more businesses to come to Florida.
“With new transparency measures, the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund strikes the right balance between accountability to the taxpayers who fund our government and the flexibility needed to remain nationally competitive in our economic development efforts,” said Senate President Joe Negron.
DEO and Enterprise Florida will review applications as they are received and make recommendations to the governor. It will be up to the governor to approve projects based on local and regional needs.
“This 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,” added House Speaker Richard Corcoran.