August 29, 2019 Most military friendly state: Clay, Duval programs to get Florida DSTF grants
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The military and defense industry are the second largest economic sector in the state.Task force funding would help buffer Clay’s Camp Blanding from incompatible land development and support military students in Jacksonville.
Programs in Clay, Duval and three other Florida counties have received state grants totaling $725,000 to help protect local military installations from any future federal closure or realignment plans.
Gov Ron DeSantis announced the Florida Defense Support Task Force funding Friday.
“As the most military-friendly state, Florida is dedicated to the thousands of military and civilian families who live and work in our defense communities,” he said.
Florida’s military and defense industry contributes about $84.9 billion in economic impact and supports more than 801,747 jobs, making it the second largest economic sector in the state, according to the task force.
The largest of the three grants is $500,000 to the Clay County Development Authority to strengthen the Camp Blanding Joint Training Center by providing buffers from incompatible land development. About 350,000 Florida National Guard troops, active duty military members and law enforcement units train at the southern Clay base every year.
The Clay grant is “in accordance with our principal purpose of promoting sound economic development of Clay County,” said Josh Cockrell, executive director of the Clay Development Authority. “It will strengthen the strategic partnership with Camp Blanding ... and improve the quality of life for our citizens by securing a buffer from future development and encroachment, thus protecting the installation that comprises almost one-fifth of the county and is tied to its economic viability.”
The Military Child Education Coalition, which supports military-connected children in Florida, received a $100,000 grant for its programs in the Duval, Hillsborough and Okaloosa County school districts. Frequent school moves and poor connections to schools because of a parent’s military service can lead to lower grades and test scores, poor attendance and higher dropout rates, among other things, according to the task force.
Florida is home to about 93,000 military-connected children and 27 military installations covering all branches of service, said Jack Ballentyne, senior vice president and chief operating officer of the coalition. The grant will pay for student support services and a “transition consultant-affiliate” in schools to to help met military-student needs, he said.
“Florida’s outstanding reputation of being military-friendly is backed by a history of deep support for service members, veterans and their families,” he said.
Also, a $125,000 grant went to the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast in Brevard County, the home of the 45th Space Wing, Patrick Air Force Base, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and about 13,000 military members and Department of Defense civilian and defense contractor personnel.
The Brevard grant will fund a “detailed assessment of the conditions of critical infrastructure supporting Eastern Range space operations,” according to the task force.
“This grant is both an investment in our nation’s military assets and Brevard County’s local community,” said Lynda Weatherman, President and CEO of the Space Coast Economic Development Commission.