Local officials watched an eye-opening presentation on Triumph funding earlier this month, where they learned local projects will require some tweaking to qualify.
On Nov. 7, Triumph’s General Counsel Scott Remington visited the county to clarify the expectations and goal of the Triumph board.
In order to apply for Triumph funding, he told county commissioners, applicants must file a preapplication, which Triumph will assess and return with suggestions for bringing the project more in line with the goals of the program. Preapplications need not be vetted by the county before being reviewed by Triumph, but final applications will receive higher priority consideration if they are recommended by the county commission.
Susan Skelton, executive director of Triumph, had initially announced that to be considered for funding at the December Triumph meeting, preapplications needed to be received on or before Nov. 15.
At the local meeting, Remington said there is no tight timeline for application for funding, and that it is unlikely any projects will be awarded funds before next year. “This is just one opportunity to apply. There will be many more,” he said.
Remington assured the assembly that $15 million is earmarked for Franklin County but said projects must meet Triumph criteria and there is no mandate to award the grants within a set period of time.
Commissioner Smokey Parrish, who has represented the county at meetings relating to the Deepwater Horizon settlements including Triumph, said he believed Triumph would attempt to award the funds in a timely fashion to demonstrate to the state legislature the program is running efficiently.
“The law made Triumph and the law can take it away if we are not good stewards,” said Remington. “There’s no telling what will happen at the next meeting of the state legislature.” HeRemington told attendees the general category of economic development was removed from the goals of Triumph at the last board meeting.
He said the general mission of Triumph is to maximize estimated economic benefits for the region, increase household income to a level above the national average, and leverage or further enhance regional resources, including schools, military installations and research facilities.
He said a successful proposal will partner with local government, tourism development organizations or educational institutions; benefit the environment and have clearly measurable outcomes to allow Triumph to assess the success of the venture.
Triumph funds cannot be used to replace funding already awarded by another grantor, for example, from the state or from an agency of the federal government.
Most important, projects must provide matching funds and the required match could be more than 100 percent of the money requested from Triumph. He said an in-kind match, or funds from another grant or government program might be acceptable, and that he did not believe any proposal lacking matching funds would be awarded.
Remington said it was likely Triumph funds would be meted out only after the match had been spent and the proposal had demonstrated it was viable.
He said Triumph hopes to leverage the available $1.5 billion to be invested into $5 billion or even $10 billion of regional economic impact.
In addition, Triumph projects must demonstrate long-term impact. If a proposal promises to create 30 jobs, the jobs must continue to exist once the Triumph money has been spent. If a proposal proves unsustainable in the long term, Triumph can ask that funds awarded be repaid.
Remington said before funds are awarded, each recipient will sign a contract specifying the role they will play in the plan for the expected outcome of the proposal.
Projects could provide an ad valorem tax reduction for a class of individuals but not for individual businesses.
“Triumph doesn’t want to see winners and losers,” he said. Impact fees for new development or businesses cannot be paid with Triumph funds. Infrastructure projects may be funded but not to benefit a specific employer.
Disaster response and recovery projects will be considered. Projects are expected to employ current residents whenever possible.
Although specific companies cannot be benefitted by Triumph projects a few target industries will receive preferential consideration: aerospace technology, defense technology, financial services, transportation, artificial intelligence, cyber security, information technology, manufacturing and robotics. Remington said Triumph will seek to promote “industry clusters” similar to North Carolina’s “Technology Triangle” and “Silicon Valley” on the West Coast.
Remington said applicants to Triumph would benefit from studying the “Development of a Regional Economic Transformation Strategy” posted online by “Florida’s Great Northwest.”
Remington said Triumph is in the process of selecting an economic advisor; a scoring entity and an economist who will advise the governing board on matters including the average wage and household income in the Panhandle.
He advised entities seeking Triumph funds to seek guidance from an economist and/or an expert as well.
The three rural counties of greatest opportunity, Franklin, Gulf and Wakulla can access Triumph funds to be spent on experts to help with their planning, engineering and preparation for additional funding.
All minutes, agendas etc. are posted online at My Florida Triumph.com, as are the proposals submitted as of Nov. 15.
Cities, schools also to apply for funds
Eleven preapplications are listed to have originated in Franklin County, with a total tally of $18.33 million.
Five are from Apalachicola’s municipal government, and these include $2.66 million for improvements to the city’s water system; $1.75 million to renovate the former Apalachicola High School a.k.a. The Van Johnson Center for Excellence; $900,000 to construct a solar power farm; $400,000 to construct and renovate affordable housing; and $500,000 to expand and update dockage in the city.
At Monday’s school board meeting, Apalachicola’s Bonnie Davis, and Holly and Creighton Brown, from SOS (Save Out Shotguns) appealed for support from the board for the affordable housing project that they are partnering with the city on. They said the homes, which would be sold at below-market rates, would be geared towards providing housing for teachers, nurses, law enforcement and other middle income buyers.
School board members Teresa Ann Martin voiced support for the proposal, and the board agreed to hear more about the project at its December meeting.
Superintendent Traci Moses had come to the Nov. 7 meeting prepared to submit two funding requests, one to promote affordable housing for school employees and a second to promote mathematics and science training. She told the school board Monday that the administration decided to spend more time preparing the requests after hearing Remington speak at the county meeting.
A proposal listed as originating from multiple counties, including Franklin, requested $400,000 to promote math and science in schools throughout the eight-county region, although that is not specifically linked to the district’s proposal.
The city of Carrabelle’s four requests were $280,000 to help construct a new City Hall; $590,000 to remove 53 septic tanks from Lighthouse Estates; $30,000 for upgrades to Carrabelle’s airport; and $860,000 to improve stormwater drainage and install sidewalks.
The county submitted a request for $2 million to complete restoration of the Fort Coombs Armory and Convention Center, and partnered with the Florida State University in a request for $8.36 million to evaluate and possibly restore oyster populations in Apalachicola Bay, create a local oyster hatchery and support local aquaculture.
The county also received an unsolicited proposal from PumpOut USA, Inc. for $12 million to mitigate septic tank leakage into Gulf waters.