Triumph board approves $10M grant to expand Port of Panama City, moves to contract phase on Escambia training grant

Triumph Gulf Coast’s board of directors unanimously voted on final approval yesterday of a $10 million grant agreement with the Port of Panama City for a major expansion of port capacity at the new East Terminal facility. The project will support over 140 direct high-wage jobs at the port and more than 250 additional port-dependent manufacturing and distribution jobs that choose to locate or expand in the region because of the newly available port capacity.

“We are honored to be the first recipient of funding from Triumph Gulf Coast and are committed to delivering significant economic benefits to the region with our port expansion project.” said Wayne Stubbs, Executive Director of the Panama City Port Authority.

The Board also agreed to move to the contract phase with Escambia and Wakulla School Districts. In the Escambia School District 1,145 high school and college students are projected to earn industry certifications and be prepared for high paying jobs in the IT/Cybersecurity, Advanced Manufacturing, and Aviation/Aerospace industries by 2024 using a $3-million Triumph grant.

The contract will include a “clawback” provision, as required under the Triumph legislation, to set performance benchmarks the grant must meet or else it would have to be paid back. Dr. Rick Harper, Triumph staff economist, admitted to the board that such clauses are rare for school districts, but he felt an agreement with the district, University of West Florida, Pensacola State College and FloridaWest could be worked out.

A $1.5 million grant with Okaloosa County to extend water and sewer to the Shoal River Ranch area also was approved to move to the contract phase.

The Triumph Board also agreed to move forward a proposal from Tom P. Haney Technical Center in Bay County to modernize its 40 year old HVAC training program. The Triumph Board added a pilot program to the project requiring Haney to offer skills upgrade training to graduates using the new equipment and certification programs. The grant request is for $615,000.

The board was impressed with the City of Pensacola’s $130 million application to help fund the construction of a $200 million aircraft maintenance campus at the Pensacola International Airport. Harper said project has the potential to bring up to 4,000 aircraft maintenance jobs.

The city was told to come back with more investors to reduce the request from Triumph.

The proposed new sports arena didn’t fare as well. Few board members appeared to be inclined to spend Triumph dollars on sports complexes. However, the board voted to form sub-groups for sports and other industries that will hold hearings and develop criteria to evaluate the applications.

Under the terms of Florida’s settlement with BP, the oil company has already deposited $300 million in Triumph Gulf Coast. Further payments of approximately $80 million a year will be made from 2019 through 2033, amounting to a total of $1.5 billion.

Triumph Gulf Coast’s board of directors is appointed by the Governor, Chief Financial Officer, Attorney General and presiding officers of the Legislature. The appointees to the Triumph Board are Allan Bense, Stan Connally, Jr, Dr. Pam Dana, Chair Don Gaetz, Ben Lee, Stephen Riggs, IV and Jason Shoaf. All meetings of the board are public.