EDC Helps Secure Florida Defense Grant Dollars

by Ron Cobb

Although our moniker is the “Space Coast,” military installations rank high on the list of Brevard’s unique identifying assets. Brevard County is home to units that are performing some of the most technologically advanced work across all military disciplines. To support this ongoing work, our business community is made up of many defense companies that continue to build safer and more efficient tools for the men and women of the armed services. The industry is even more important to Florida’s economy with defense adding a $65 billion economic impact and over 686,181 direct and indirect jobs.

Over its history, the Economic Development Commission has embraced the mission of both our local Air Force and Navy installations, helping to fight for critical resources that bolster programs. A dedicated council of EDC volunteers has consistently supported local military programs by lobbying legislators and rallying community support for future projects. The popular ‘We Love Our Military’ marketing campaign in the mid-2000’s was a direct result of these efforts.

Enterprise Florida & Defense Support

A highly successful but relatively unknown economic development tool is one large way our organization supports local installations. The Florida Defense Grant Program, which is administered by Governor Rick Scott’s economic development organization, Enterprise Florida Inc. and funded by the state’s legislature, assists Florida communities that host defense industries, bases, and installations. The EDC works directly with local military leaders to learn about areas of critical need and then seeks these defense grants on the installation’s behalf. Grants are awarded annually on a priority project basis.

This year, the EDC was once again successful in obtaining grants for key projects through both the Defense Infrastructure Program and the Defense Reinvestment Grant Program.

The Defense Infrastructure Program addresses the infrastructure needs of Florida’s military installations. Grants are provided for projects associated with encroachment, transportation and access, utilities, communications, housing, environment and security.

This year’s funding of $80,000 will provide a necessary tool for the 45th Space Wing at Patrick Air Force Base as they pursue new contracts for military and commercial launch vehicles. It will enable an increase in mission responsiveness and provide a more competitive site through decreased timelines and decreased costs, thereby increasing the attractiveness of Brevard County’s launch services.

The Defense Reinvestment Grant Program is designed to assist communities in developing economic diversification strategies and implement base reuse programs. The program encourages communities to analyze their economic reliance on defense expenditures and formulate specific plans to respond to the nation’s defense priorities.

This year’s funding of $62,500 will enable the EDC to foster close interaction with the Departments of the Air Force and Navy, while developing a well informed, supportive body of local government and community leaders. It also provides the ability to leverage Department of Defense assets to save and create jobs and will help mitigate the economic impact from the space program transition.

Track Record of Success

This round of awards builds on an already impressive list of projects the EDC has supported. Many of the area’s noteworthy military projects, including a new engineering building at the Naval Ordnance Test Unit, the Child Development Center at Patrick Air Force Base and the new AFTAC Building, have all been aided by these state grant programs in previous years. The funding has helped to not only create and update facilities but it has made the difference by saving hundreds of jobs and strengthening our economy at the same time.

In total, Governor Scott awarded $2.4 million in grants to 20 projects across Florida. Projects receiving similar awards surround issues such as cyber warfare to land use planning and are based out of locations from Pensacola to Miami. This Defense Grant Program is one way the community can build a targeted strategy to support and expand Brevard County’s military installations. These installations help to define the very image and identity of our area so any assistance we can provide in enhancing their mission capabilities is an advantage to the entire community.

To learn more about the Florida Defense Grant program, visit http://www.floridadefense.org/grants.asp

Ron Cobb is chair of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast’s Space Coast Defense Alliance.