State ‘Job Growth’ Fund Opens For Business

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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Florida is starting to accept pitches for $85 million that lawmakers have set aside for economic-development projects.

Gov. Rick Scott announced Wednesday that the state Department of Economic Opportunity and Enterprise Florida are accepting proposals for money in the “Florida Job Growth Grant Fund,” which was created during a June special legislative session.

“We are competing against other states and countries for new jobs, and we must aggressively fight to make Florida the best destination for business,” Scott said in a prepared statement.

The creation of the fund was a compromise after the House this spring blocked Scott’s request for a similar amount of money that would have gone to business incentives awarded out of the public-private Enterprise Florida.

Rather than providing direct incentives to individual companies that expand or relocate to Florida, money from the new fund must go toward infrastructure projects or job training. The Department of Economic Opportunity and Enterprise Florida will recommend projects to Scott for approval.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, led criticism during the past two years of Scott’s requests for money for business incentives, often calling such incentives “corporate welfare” and even labeling them “de facto socialism.”

But with the new fund in place, Corcoran cozied up to Scott during a “victory” tour after the special session, declaring the fund “a brand new model for the rest of the nation on how to do funding for bringing business and keeping businesses here with infrastructure and education that benefits everybody, not just the few.”

“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,” Corcoran said in a prepared statement Wednesday.

As part of infrastructure proposals, for example, government entities must detail anticipated economic impacts and “how the public infrastructure improvements will connect to a broader economic development vision for the community and benefit current or future businesses.”

Applications for job-training money are required to describe how the proposals support state college and university programs, as well as providing sustainable workforce skills to more than a single employer.

Applicants must also predict the number of jobs that will be created from the job training.

Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said the “new transparency measures,” provide the “right balance between accountability to the taxpayers who fund our government and the flexibility needed to remain nationally competitive.”

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

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