Oil-impacted counties looking at $10 million in development funds

Aug 8, 2011

The following article was published August 8, 2011 in the Pensacola News Journal:

Oil impacted counties looking at $10 million in development funds

he Florida counties impacted directly by the BP oil spill will be in line for $10 million a year for the next three years in extra economic development funds, but that could just be the beginning.That was the message this morning from Rick Harper, director of the University of West Florida’s Office Economic Development and Engagement, who spoke to the Santa Rosa County Commission about the state’s Oil Spill Economic Recovery Act. That office is negotiating a contract with the state to administer the act.

The funding is expected to be available beginning Oct 1.

That act set aside the $10 million a year for economic development incentives in the eight counties between Escambia and Wakulla, Harper said.That money is intended to be a “closing fund,” meaning it will be used as a final incentive to seal the deal with industries that are considering locating within the eight counties.

“The legislation specifies that this money is to be used to develop and implement an innovative economic development plan (for these counties) that emphasizes research and development, commercialization, economic diversification and job creation,” Harper told commissioners. “The legislative intent is that this funding be used for a relatively small number of relative large projects.”

He said incentives could range from $10,000 per job created to as much as $30,000 per job created.

While the $10 million a year comes from Florida general fund revenues, Harper said the legislation puts the impacted counties in line for the lion’s share of the expected fine to be paid by BP for the spill.

“The bill specified that 75 percent of BP fines to be paid in the future be allocated to the disproportionately affected counties,” Harper said. “That’s potentially enormous … (Depending on the ultimate fine) that’s $750 million that could be allocated to Northwest Florida.”

Find this article here:  http://www.pnj.com/article/20110808/NEWS01/110808008/Oil-impacted-counties-looking-10-million-development-funds