Apalachicola, FL – The Triumph Gulf Coast Board voted on final approval for grants in Okaloosa and Franklin counties totaling over $65 million. The projects will create at least 1300 new high wage job opportunities and more then 400 workforce training certificates across Northwest Florida. To-date the Board has voted to proceed with 24 projects totaling over $215 million. The Board heard an update from Florida State University on the Apalachicola Bay System Initiative (ABSI) and had a discussion on possible ways to assist with the critical housing shortages in Bay and Gulf counties as a result of Hurricane Michael as the region continues to recover from the devastating effects of the storm.
The Triumph Board approved a final grant agreement with Okaloosa County for $64.1 million to assist with a $200 million bypass linking Highway 85 to US Highway 10 southwest of Crestview. This project will result in at least 1300 new defense related jobs and provide long term relief for traffic congestion in the county.
A final grant award with Franklin County School Board (FCSB) for a $1,215,000 was approved by the Triumph Board. The grant is for the second phase of the Franklin County School District’s Environmental, Career and Technical Training plan. Phase II will create opportunities at the high school level for students to earn Healthcare, Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Safety certifications and Visual Line of Site System Operator certifications. The grant also includes digital tool certifications for 4th and 5th grade students in this state designated Rural Area of Opportunity (RAO).
Dr. Gary Ostrander, Vice President of Research at FSU, gave a brief status update on the ABSI project and noted that the first community stakeholder meeting was held in Franklin County on October 30. He said that work on the research hatchery will begin soon at the FSU Coastal Marine Laboratory at St. Teresa, and reiterated a commitment to have an FSU presence in Apalachicola as the business entrepreneur phase of the project is implemented in the years to come. As part of his presentation, Dr. Ostrander announced that the National Fish and Wildlife Federation (NFWF) has awarded a $20 million grant to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to work with FSU on restoring up to 1000 acres of oyster reefs in Apalachicola Bay. The funds from this grant, along with the earlier Triumph Gulf Coast grant, will be used to design, manage and ensure sustainability of the restored reefs. The FSU research will be used to determine the optimal location and conditions for cultch deployments.