Recently returned from scouting out business interests in Germany, Escambia County Commissioner Gene Valentino told the commission this morning to expect visits from foreign delegations checking out the area. The commissioner found a receptive audience as he requested $150,000 to better lure the businesses to the county.
“These funds would be used to round out their experiences in Escambia County,” Valentino explained.
The commissioner said that the visiting business delegations would be paying their own travel expenses, but that the county would need funds available for various aspects of their trip, such as entertainment.
“It’s typical underwriting that you do when you go through this process,” Valentino said, adding later that he hoped to use possible BP Clean Water Act fine money to purchase land in order to further entice foreign businesses looking for such incentives.
The commission eventually approved Valentino’s funding request, but not without some debate. Commissioner Grover Robinson wondered how the county could afford to designate funds for foreign business delegations when it was presently struggling with other budget issues—he said the request made him “uncomfortable” and pointed specifically to funding concerns with the library system and the sheriff’s office.
“I keep hearing ‘the sheriff, the sheriff,’ but I thought we had finished the sheriff,” said Commissioner Marie Young.
Robinson said he was planning to bring the issue back up. The commissioner said he had spoken with Escambia County Chief Deputy Larry Aiken, and that he wanted to revisit the sheriff’s budget.
“The interpretation that he kind of gave me was that they needed $120,000,” Robinson said.
The commissioner said that he had since heard the number $220,000—“I keep hearing two different things”—but requested that the issue be put on the Oct. 18 meeting agenda.