Today, Governor Rick Scott announced that $1,469,000 has been awarded through the Florida Defense Support Task Force Grant Program to six projects to protect military installations across the state. This year, awards were given to the South Florida Progress Foundation, Polk County, Clay County Development Authority, Bay County, the Central Florida Planning Region and Gulf Coast State College. Florida's military and defense industry contributes more than $84.9 billion in economic impact, and the industry supports more than 801,747 jobs in Florida, which is the second largest economic sector in the state.
Governor Scott said, "This week I had the opportunity to travel to Kuwait to visit Florida troops and to see firsthand the important work they are doing to protect our nation's freedoms. We can never do enough to support our military and veterans and I am proud to award these important grants to an industry that contributes nearly $85 billion to our economy. Through this more than $1.4 million investment, we are able to not only protect our military installations, but also create jobs and economic growth in these communities that do so much for our men and women in the military."
This grant funding will support community projects at Florida military installations that will diversify the local economy, provide support for local infrastructure projects and strengthen Florida's bases ahead of any potential Department of Defense realignment or closure actions. For more information on the individual grant awards for projects throughout the state, see below:
Miami-Dade County: $140,000 in Defense Grants
$140,000 was awarded to the South Florida Progress Foundation in support of their continued effort to establish the South Florida Defense Alliance (SFDA). The SFDA was established to advocate for the 24 commands and 15 installations in South Florida.
Col. Steve Williamson (US Army Retired), Chairman of the Miami Chamber of Commerce, said, "Our communities are absolutely better when we work together. The South Florida Defense Alliance is extremely honored to receive this generous grant that reinforces the importance of the military's presence in our region and our state. We know that the military in South Florida is one of our great treasures. This funding gives the South Florida Defense Alliance the ability to strengthen our leadership of a united coalition that champions and represents our local defense community. It also allows us to expand our efforts across all of South Florida to combine the vast capabilities and influence of our four counties. Finally, it offers the opportunity to achieve the critical goals necessary to optimally support our local military forces, mission and installations and to grow the defense industries that support them."
Polk County: $500,000in Defense Grants
$500,000 was awarded to Polk County to acquire conservation easements and preserve military readiness by limiting incompatible development near the Avon Park Air Force Range. Avon Park Air Force Range, the largest Air Force operational training range on the East Coast, is used extensively by all military services and several federal agencies. This funding will also be used as matching funds for the 2018 federal Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative (REPI) application.
Lt. Col. Daniel Edgar, 598th Range Squadron, Avon Park Air Force Range said, "The importance of this grant and of partners like the Florida Defense Support Task Force and Enterprise Florida cannot be overstated. Without grant funding, without partnerships, we would not have been able to work with the County and willing landowners to protect and buffer the world-class military training that occurs at Avon Park AFR."
Clay County: $500,000 in Defense Grants
$500,000 was awarded to Clay County to buffer Camp Blanding from incompatible land development. Camp Blanding trains over 350,000 members of the Florida National Guard, active duty military, and law enforcement.
Josh Cockrell, Executive Director of the Clay County Development Authority, said, "In accordance with our principal purpose of promoting sound economic development of Clay County, the Clay County Development Authority is pleased to receive this grant. It will strengthen the strategic partnership with Camp Blanding Joint Training Center and improve the quality of life for our citizens by securing a buffer from future development and encroachment, thus protecting the installation that comprises almost one-fifth of the county and is tied to its economic viability."
Bay County: $95,000 in Defense Grants
$95,000 was awarded to the Bay County Board of County Commissioners to develop an expeditionary rapid innovation center outside Naval Station Activity Panama City, which will collaborate with local colleges, universities, and business in a public-private partnership. This partnership will address the Navy's critical need for a quick response innovative solution to address emerging mission requirements. This grant will be used to leverage a $770,000 match from the Naval Surface Warfare Center- Panama City Division (NSWC-PCD).
Ed Stewart, Technical Director of the NSWC-PCD, said, "The enemy, our competitor, is catching up with us because they are not constrained by many of the same things that impede our ability to rapidly deliver warfighting capability. We need to go fast and this type of organization will allow us to move fast and expand the advantage for our warfighters."
Gulf Coast State College: $144,000 in Defense Grants
$144,000 was awarded to Gulf Coast State College to complete the required environmental impact study and scoping sessions to ensure Tyndall Air Force Base is a compatible location to house the beddown of the MQ-9 Reaper Air Wing. The MQ-9 is the Air Force's newest unmanned aerial vehicle. If selected to host the MQ-9 Air Wing, it will bring 24 aircraft, which represents approximately 1,600 additional jobs to Bay County.
Glen McDonald, Gulf Coast State College, said, "This project will maintain the trajectory to accept the largest defense mission to our state with tremendous return on investment."
Central Florida Regional Planning Council: $90,000 in Defense Grants (Polk and Highlands Counties)
$90,000 was awarded to the Central Florida Regional Planning Council to match the $150,000 Department of Defense (DOD) Sentinel Landscape Coordinator Grant to build upon short-term accelerators for implementation of the Avon Park Air Force Range (APAFR) Sentinel Landscape Partnership. The APAFR Sentinel Landscape project addresses the challenges of development and incompatible land uses that threaten the viability of military training operations, as well as the health of working lands and natural systems. The combination of Florida Defense Support Task Force funds and the DOD Sentinel Landscape Coordinator Grant will provide research and the development of new tools outside of conservation easements, which successfully address this challenge.
Lt. Col. Daniel Edgar, 598th Range Squadron, Avon Park Air Force Range said, "The importance of this grant and of partners like the Florida Defense Support Task Force and Enterprise Florida cannot be overstated. This grant funding allows us the unique opportunity to develop tools in addition to conservation easements to protect and buffer the world-class military training that occurs at Avon Park AFR."