More than $150 million in public infrastructure projects and an additional $20 million in hurricane relief and education programs that will create or support thousands of area jobs were approved today by Triumph Gulf Coast. Triumph is the organization established by the legislature to use $1.5 billion in economic damages from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill to strengthen and diversify coastal Northwest Florida’s economy.
The largest award, for $66 million, combines with an additional $269 in private, state and local government investments, to create an aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul campus for passenger and freight aircraft at Pensacola International Airport. $20 million was awarded by Triumph for the City of Panama City’s $74 million marine industrial complex to enable the construction of the next generation of US Coast Guard cutters by Eastern Shipbuilding Group. The board also gave initial approval for $64.1 million to assist with a $200 million bypass linking Highway 85 to US Highway 10 southwest of Crestview.
In nearly all cases Triumph awards, including those made today, require local sponsors to come up with most of the needed funds. Entities receiving Triumph support must also guarantee economic performance benefitting the area, usually including the creation of new jobs paying higher than average wages or legally obligate themselves to give the money back.
Although Triumph dollars don’t come from taxpayers, they are a public trust. The funds are paid over 15 years by BP under federal court order to the State of Florida in recognition of the economic damages to state government. The state, in turn, has designated Triumph to use the money for projects that will make Northwest Florida’s economy stronger and more diversified. Triumph uses its funds to attract and match major private sector partners as well as state, federal and local governments to support transformational economic development.
The Triumph board, meeting in Shalimar, also voted to award $15 million to Bay and Gulf counties, and the school districts and cities within those counties, to replace ad valorem tax revenues lost due to property devaluations following Hurricane Michael. The funds will help those counties, hardest hit by last October’s hurricane, to continue providing public safety and basic governmental services in advance of anticipated funding from the federal government and Florida Legislature.
In further action, Triumph awarded $5,266,319 to strengthen career-technical education so that Northwest Florida workers will be trained and qualified for the new jobs being created by employers expanding or moving to the area.
Northwest Florida State College’s DeFuniak Springs campus will receive $2.8 million for 1,570 industry certifications in Aerospace and Defense, Architecture and Construction, Law Enforcement, Public Safety, Corrections and Security, and Cybersecurity. The Escambia School District will receive $2.3 million to train students in IT, Cybersecurity, Advanced Manufacturing, and Aviation/Aerospace to prepare for jobs related to the major expansions at the Pensacola airport. The Gulf County School District will receive $125,000 to support 120 industry certifications in Agri-technology, Agri-science and Agricultural Use of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Technology while the Bay Youth Summer Work Foundation in partnership with Gulf Coast State College is in line for $48,000 for IT certification and workforce training.
The process for receiving funding involves submitting a written application which is analyzed for return-on-investment and scored by Triumph’s economic and education advisers. Proposals that receive initial approval, such as the Crestview bypass project, are then subject to negotiation for specific performance terms. If term sheets are agreed to by the board, a final agreement is presented, and funds are awarded. For more information go to www.myfloridatriumph.com. All applications, evaluations, board minutes, financial statements, records and contact information are posted on the website. Although Triumph is a non-profit organization and not a government agency, the organization is subject to all public meetings, public records and enhanced ethics requirements.
In other business, the Triumph board welcomed Lewis Bear, Jr., selected by Governor DeSantis to fill the unexpired term of former Gulf Power CEO Stan Connally who resigned from the board when he was promoted to chief operating officer of the Southern Companies in Atlanta.
The board also received an initial report from the state’s Auditor General containing no criticisms of the group’s financial operations and two minor recommendations, one to provide more specific guidance to applicants not qualified for Triumph funding and the other to formally designate the vice chairman as an authorized signer on financial transactions. Both recommendations were accepted and implemented.
Triumph’s board of directors is appointed by the Governor, Attorney General, Chief Financial Officer and presiding officers of the legislature. In addition to Bear, board members include Dr. Pam Dana, Stephen Riggs IV, Jason Shoaf, Allan Bense, Don Gaetz and Ben Lee.