TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Governor Rick Scott today awarded more than $2 million in the Florida Defense Support Task Force Grant initiatives to local community organizations which support Florida military installations. These grants will be utilized to protect, preserve and enhance Florida's military missions and installations, while maintaining Florida's reputation as the most military friendly state in the nation. Additionally, these grants will strengthen Florida's military bases ahead of any potential U.S. Department of Defense realignment or closure actions. This will protect more than $73 billion in investments and nearly 760,000 jobs the defense industry supports in Florida.
Governor Scott said, "Florida continues to be the best place in the nation for military service members and their families to live and work. The $2 million from the Florida Defense Support Task Force will help keep vital missions at Florida's military installations, foster positive relationships between the military and the community, and support jobs for Florida families."
Senate President Don Gaetz said, "Florida's Defense Support Task Force plays a critical role in furthering Florida's status as the most military friendly state in the nation. As the sponsor of the initial Defense Support legislation and appropriations, I'm pleased to see these funds used to assist Northwest Florida communities and businesses that go the extra mile for our military members and their families."
House Speaker Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel) said, "Tampa plays a critical role in our nation's defense industry and this grant helps to ensure the men and women working for our military have the support they need to continue keeping us safe. Support for the Tampa Bay Defense Alliance ensures provides stability for this significant sector of the Tampa Bay economy."
The 2013-14 Florida Defense Support Task Force Grants, totaling $2.029 million, have been awarded to seven worthy projects that serve to protect military installations across the state. This year, awards were given to the Clay County Development Authority (two projects), the City of Niceville, the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce, the National Simulation Center in Orlando, the Economic Development Alliance of Bay County and Tampa Bay Defense Alliance.
Secretary of Commerce and president & CEO of Enterprise Florida, Gray Swoope said, "These grants are vital to our military and defense programs, and the local economies that rely on the operation of those facilities. By providing the necessary funding for the sector's development, jobs are created and Florida's workforce is strengthened by the skilled former military personnel who enter the employment market. Enterprise Florida, through its work with the Florida Defense Task Force, is committed to supporting our military and defense sector."
The grant program is administered by Enterprise Florida, Inc. The grants are awarded annually, on a project priority basis, to organizations and communities working to protect, preserve and enhance Florida's military installations and missions as well as improve the state's military-friendly environment for service members, families and veterans. For more information on the Florida Defense Support Task Force visit www.eflorida.com/floridadefense.
Clay County Development Authority will receive two grants totaling $729,000. The funding will allow Florida National Guard officials to install an airspace control system and a mass notification system at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center.
Senator Rob Bradley said, "These grants go a long way in helping to preserve the economic impact our military bases and families have on our region. I sincerely thank the Task Force for recognizing the value of military communities like Camp Blanding and other across the state."
Representative Charles Van Zant said, "This large award will immediately enhance Camp Blanding's airspace control capability while preserving defense industry jobs, and add needed economic infusion into Clay and Bradford counties. In addition, the long term effect will provide a broader, more secured posture when Florida's Military Bases are reviewed during the upcoming Department of Defense national re-alignment and base closure considerations. Congratulations to the Clay County Development Authority."
Representative Travis Cummings said, "Florida's military installations are vital to Florida in so many ways, from defending our citizens to billions in economic impact. I applaud the Florida Defense Support Task Force for awarding these needed funds to the Camp Blanding Joint Training Center. These funds will provide important new systems for the base, allowing it to operate as effectively as possible."
Bill Garrison, Director of Economic Development, Clay County Development Authority said, "The Clay County Development Authority is excited to be a recipient of Florida Defense Support Task Force grants to support strategic improvements at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center. The projects funded by the grants will improve Camp Blanding's ability to support the more than 350,000 training-days that take place at the base annually. Camp Blanding is a major training facility for Florida, and the Clay County Development Authority is proud to partner with them to enhance their ability to complete their mission, and to create more economic activity in Clay County."
The Economic Development Alliance of Bay County will receive $500,000. The funding will enable construction of the high capacity data link known as LambdaRail to connect with the military installation at Naval Support Activity Panama City. This will allow the installation to benefit from increased information technology connectivity and significantly improve its military value.
Representative Jimmy Patronis said, "The Florida Defense Support Task Force works to keep vital missions at Florida's military installations as well as fostering positive relationships between the military and the local communities. These grants will help protect, preserve and enhance Florida's military installations that generate billions of dollars for our economy as well as stable, high-paying jobs for Floridians. I applaud Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature for their support of the Task Force and commitment to keeping Florida as the most military-friendly state in the nation."
Representative Marti Coley said, "The Florida Defense Support Task Force should be commended for awarding this grant to Naval Support Activity Panama City. The connection of the LambdaRail data link was greatly needed to enhance operations at the base, and I applaud the Task Force for addressing this issue. This type of support shows our military families how important they are to the region."
Neal Wade, Executive Director of the Economic Development Alliance of Bay County said, "We are very appreciative to have received this grant which will link Bay County's military installations to cutting edge technology through Florida LambdaRail. This connection is a major first step and is critical to the continued growth throughout Bay County and the region."
The National Center for Simulation, located on Naval Support Activity Orlando, will receive $350,000. The funding will allow for the development and execution of a strategic plan to reduce Team Orlando's risk of realignment or closure. Team Orlando is a partnership between the military, the modeling and simulation industry and academic institutions that work to contribute to the security of the United States through modeling and simulation, human performance and training. The goal with the $350,000 in funding is to implement a strategy that will strengthen and grow the modeling, simulation and training industry in order to retain Team Orlando.
Senator Andy Gardiner said, "The $350,000 award to the National Center for Simulation at Naval Support Activity Orlando is great for Central Florida's military growth. Creating a plan to stabilize and strengthen Team Orlando is vital for this area and I'm excited that this community was given the funds to keep jobs and families in Florida."
Representative Steve Precourt said, "Team Orlando is a top notch partnership in Central Florida whose work protecting and advancing the local modeling, simulation and training industry is world renowned. The $350,000 grant issued by the Florida Defense Support Task Force will help secure an action plan to guarantee this significant work continues. Safeguarding our military related service economy from the negative impacts of realignment has been a priority of the legislature, and I commend Governor Scott for taking this step in the process of ensuring our military continues to call Florida a 'home base for business.'"
Retired Lieutenant General Thomas L. Baptiste, President/Executive Director of the National Center for Simulation said, "The Metro Orlando community appreciates the confidence and support of Governor Scott and the Florida Defense Support Task Force. Orlando's Research Park remains the worldwide epicenter of the Modeling, Simulation & Training Industry. The acquisition commands of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and ten other federal government agencies and joint commands are all collocated in what we refer to as Team Orlando. This grant funding will match local contributions and allow community leaders to execute an action plan designed to protect, grow and enhance Team Orlando and continue to deliver cost effective training solutions to America's warfighters."
The Tampa Bay Defense Alliance will receive $225,000. The funding will allow for the development of a strategic marketing campaign to champion MacDill Air Force Base. Additionally, the funding will develop and strengthen relationships between MacDill Air Force Base and the local community.
Senator Tom Lee said, "Florida's military installations are vital to Florida in so many ways, from defending our citizens to billions in economic impact. These funds are critical to keeping the bases and military personnel in our communities."
Senator John Legg said, "The impact our military installations and personnel have in the Tampa region cannot be overstated, yet we need to continue working to share that message. This grant from the Florida Defense Support Task Force is critical to helping MacDill Air Force Base strategically market their operations, and develop and strengthen relationships between MacDill and the local community. I thank the Task Force members for this grant and their continued efforts to promote the good work being done by our military communities."
Representative Dana Young said, "MacDill Air Force Base boasts unique attributes that we believe can tell a powerful story through any BRAC process. This grant will support the Tampa Bay Defense Alliance's efforts to deliver that message, helping to protect the base and ensure it remains a vital part of our community"
Rich McClain, Executive Director, Tampa Bay Defense Alliance said, "The Tampa Bay Defense Alliance (TBDA) is extremely thankful to the Florida Defense Support Task Force and Enterprise Florida, Inc. for their unwavering support as the TBDA joins forces with our community partners to champion our historic legacy and current readiness of MacDill AFB, in tandem with the Tampa Bay Defense Industry, to affirm the capability and capacity of our military and defense community in support of Air Mobility Command (AMC), the Air Force and DOD."
The Florida Defense Support Task Force was created in 2011 with the mission to make recommendations to preserve and protect military installations, support the state's position in research and development related to military missions and contracting, and improve the state's military-friendly environment for service members, military families, military retirees and businesses that bring military and base-related jobs to the state.
The Greater Pensacola Chamber will receive $200,000 to establish a center of excellence for information dominance to stimulate science and technology research and cyber warfare training.
Senator Greg Evers said, "The bases in Northwest Florida are vital to America's national security, and we're committed to supporting the families and communities who serve our country. We want to protect jobs and opportunities for Florida families, and the investment of another $200,000 from the Florida Defense Support Task Force grant funding to support research and development operations, create a center of excellence, and support our warriors will help in that goal."
Representative Clay Ingram said, "I congratulate Pensacola's military and defense industry. This award is huge for our area. The knowledge that our military men and women will gain because of these resources will make Pensacola a better place to live."
Representative Mike Hill said, "We've been working hard to support our military and defense in Pensacola and these funds will greatly help this community. I'm excited about Pensacola's bright landscape and what's to come for this area's military sector."
Craig Dalton, Vice President of Armed Services, Greater Pensacola Chamber said, "The Center of Excellence is the culmination of our on-going relationship and collaboration with our federal partners at Corry Station. We are extremely grateful to the State of Florida for supporting this endeavor to collectively develop a cyber-forensics lab that promotes science and technology research in Pensacola."
The City of Niceville will receive $25,000. This funding will allow for the development of Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping to implement the Joint Land Use Study (JLUS) with Eglin Air Force Base to prevent possible encroachment to the base.
Representative Matt Gaetz said, "We are pleased that the City of Niceville is doing all it can to welcome the F 35 mission."
Niceville Mayor Randall Wise said, "The City of Niceville appreciates and is excited to receive the $25,000 grant. Eglin's mission is important to us, the State and Nation. These funds will help us insure that their boundaries are not compromised."