TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Dipping into the state’s Job Growth Grant Fund, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday awarded $3.9 million to Orlando Melbourne International Airport for water and sewer improvements needed to expand the facility.
DeSantis said the grant will help continue the growth of the aviation and aerospace industries on the state’s Space Coast. The governor said he sees tremendous potential for Brevard County and added that the airport will be a key piece in that equation.
Wednesday's event was held inside an airplane hanger where some of the major airlines build and repair their jets. Governor DeSantis talked about the aerospace industry and likened Brevard County to the "Silicon Valley," but for planes and spacecraft.
"I think it’s a great announcement, and I look forward to future success here at the airport and obviously in the surrounding area as we continue to make strides in these really key industries," DeSantis said.
Airport officials say they want to use the three million to build more taxiways and try to attract more flights.
"I think it’s a great announcement and I look forward to future success here at the airport and obviously in the surrounding area as we continue to make strides in these really key industries," DeSantis said.
The grant is expected to help the airport land an unidentified “opportunity” that could create more than 500 jobs, according to an application for the money from the Melbourne Airport Authority.
“Existing tenants would also benefit with a suitable environment to grow existing operations and jobs,” airport Executive Director Greg Donovan wrote in the application.
The Job Growth Grant Fund, which the governor can direct to regional infrastructure projects and workforce-training programs, received $40 million from the Legislature for the current fiscal year. DeSantis has asked lawmakers to bump the funding to $85 million during the 2020 legislative session. The fund was created in 2017 after a legislative battle about incentives, including a failed request by then-Gov. Rick Scott in 2016 to provide $250 million in economic-development money that could go directly to businesses.
Some Democrats have labeled the Job Growth Grant Fund a “slush fund” that lacks oversight. Applications are posted on the Department of Economic Opportunity website.
The full news conference from Wednesday is below.
The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.