BONIFAY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) – Building a strong economy starts with strong infrastructure. It’s not an easy or cheap job, especially for some of our rural communities, but it’s one that Governor Ron DeSantis is working to support. Last week, he announced $5 million in funding will continue for infrastructure improvement projects in the panhandle.
The money is supported by the Infrastructure Fund (RIF) program, which is administered by the Florida Department of Economic Development. It’s going to improve water and wastewater infrastructure, build public roads and rehabilitate public buildings in Calhoun, Gadsden, Holmes, Jackson, Liberty and Washington counties.
The former Bonifay Middle School was left for sale when the doors closed in 2018. What some thought was a waste, the Holmes County Development Commission saw an opportunity.
“What we’re trying to do is get jobs for people,” said Joe Rone, Chairman of the Holmes County Development Commission.
Last year, a manufacturing company in Pennsylvania decided to create a store inside, which created 65 jobs on its own.
Rone said, “The people there love their work and now they’re doing expansion work like 40 more jobs, and we’re going in for a local infrastructure grant to help us with the school to do necessary changes to get those jobs,” said Rone.
Last week, Governor DeSantis announced that almost a million people will go to invest in infrastructure in the panhandle city, with more than $ 360,000 going directly to the repair of the school.
“We want it to be like a commercial buyer and we want, we want to get a large workforce here and where we can get 20, 30, 40 jobs,” Rone said.
Major employers have already moved in, with a new Busy Bee convenience store coming to the corner of Highway 79 and I-10.
“They’re coming to Bonifay, just under the interstate. They’re going to build their biggest place. Biggest in pumps, big in square footage,” Rone said.
The largest amount of the grant, the taxpayer $ 1,870,700 will pay for the water and sewer required to build a store. It will bring in $20 million in revenue and create 120 jobs.
“We want to make people’s lives better and this is doing it,” said Rone. “That will change Holmes County.”
The busy Bee is expected to open in 2024.
Rone said they want to renovate the middle school. Once they get the money, they will start working on the expansion.
Below is a complete list of the countries that offer funding programs:
- City of Bonifay ($362,839) – renovating the former Bonifay Middle School to accommodate business expansion and create 40 jobs.
- Town of Cottondale ($300,000) – conducting research to develop plans and construction cost estimates to improve the city’s wastewater and irrigation facilities that will carry out a $50 million commercial expansion project that will provide more than 50 new jobs.
- Alford County ($285,000) – conducting research to identify weaknesses in the current drinking water system, and the best option to provide sufficient water for the expansion of local businesses and future business development.
- Campbellton Township ($494,500) – to design and build a parking lot on the downtown business street to provide new business opportunities for customers and to expand the area.
- Grand Ridge Village ($274,500) – conducting research to identify and correct weaknesses in the current rain system that causes frequent flooding of businesses and homes. This study will include recommended mitigation actions, preliminary plans, and estimated costs to implement a comprehensive stormwater management plan.
- Holmes City ($1,870,700) – extending water and sewer infrastructure for the Gateway Project, a new 40,000 square foot transit center creating 120 jobs and a $20 million investment in the area.
- Jackson County ($982,850) – to design, permit, and build public roads and infrastructure for Project TAP, an advanced manufacturing company that creates or maintains 25 jobs and a $3.5 million investment in the region.
- Washington County ($300,000) – to secure the engineering design work of the proposed infrastructure improvements for site certification of a 200 acre industrial park that will attract new businesses and companies to the area.
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