State Money Will Help Build Westside Jacksonville Road, 8 Other Projects

Feb 6, 2018

Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced in Jacksonville Tuesday that the state is funding $6 million to build a 1.5-mile road at Cecil Commerce Center on the Westside.

It’s one of nine projects receiving money totaling more than 40 percent of a new state economic development fund called the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund. Lawmakers created it last year during a summer special session.

That total fund of $85 million must be spent on public infrastructure or workforce training. Although the state’s received 225 proposals asking for a total of more than $820 million, $35 million is going to the nine projects, Scott announced in Jacksonville.

“These projects are going to bring new opportunities, and they’re going to bring continued economic development all across our state,” Scott said.

The city of Jacksonville said in its Cecil Commerce grant proposal that the new road will allow the city to better market a 600-acre property, which is landlocked and difficult to access. The city contends the lack of access is why manufacturers have decided against the site. Up to $1.6 million in city tax dollars could be spent on the project, in addition to using $600,000 worth of already purchased "wetland credits" to offset environmental impacts.

Another grant gives Pensacola State College $1.8 million for a STEM workforce training program, and another funds cruise- and cargo-terminal improvements at Port Canaveral.

The six others are:

  • Liberty County Board of County Commissioners ($1,448,831) for the construction of a turning lane on Highway 65 South at the intersection of U.S. Forest Service Road 103, and paving 1.5 miles of the service road to create access to more than 500 acres of property for economic development.
  • Suwannee County Board of County Commissioners ($3,125,000) to provide water supply and fire protection to the Interstate 75 and County Road 136 interchange.
  • Columbia County ($3,135,600) for the construction of the North Florida Mega Industrial Park Rail Project, which will run parallel to Highway 90, allowing developers access to an industrial park of more than 2,600 acres.
  • City of Alachua ($6,755,000) for construction of San Felasco Parkway and nearby utilities, connecting a large bioscience cluster – including the University of Florida Sid Martin Biotechnology Institute – to a shovel-ready site of 280 acres.
  • City of Port St. Lucie ($3,003,247) for the development of a roadway improvement project, which will provide access to 100 acres of undeveloped land in Tradition Commerce Park, an area which has the space to accommodate approximately 1.1 million square feet of commercial development.
  • Washington County Board of County Commissioners ($1,821,461) to build water and sewer infrastructure that will replace the need for future wells and septic systems as a part of the development of a 1,525-acre commercial/industrial/mixed use development district.

The projects are vetted through Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development agency and Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. Enterprise Florida CEO Pete Antonacci said about $50 million remains to be awarded.

“We have provisions in each contract to make sure that the communities perform, and the communities have enthusiastically endorsed that,” he said. “They want to perform. They want to get return on investment. They want to use their taxpayer dollars wisely.”

Jacksonville has requested Florida Job Growth Grant Fund money for two additional infrastructure projects and two workforce training programs at Florida State College at Jacksonville. As for any of those projects getting funded?

“Perhaps,”Antonacci said at the governor’s press conference.

The Florida Job Growth Grant Fund was created as a compromise after House leaders wanted to cut Enterprise Florida dollars. Many lawmakers were unhappy with the way incentive money was awarded to businesses.

Scott’s asking for another $85 million for the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund in the legislative session that’s underway.

Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at lkilbride@wjct.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride.