By Opportunity Zone Magazine Staff

The Economic Development Administration (EDA) has awarded a $4.8-million grant to Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Florida, to help construct and expand the college’s Center for Innovation and Economic Development (CIED) at the Blount Center. The project is located in an Opportunity Zone and will be matched with more than $1 million in local funds.

“The $1,191,020 match is funded by a combination of sources that are restricted to construction funding the Blount Campus expansion in downtown Gainesville,” says Kathryn Lehman, director of sponsored projects at Santa Fe College. “These restricted funding sources include private donations, state of Florida appropriations and college funds that are specifically designated for construction.”

The project will support the development and growth of new business sectors by rebuilding and expanding the CIED, which serves early-stage start-ups across a broad spectrum of sectors. The EDA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

“By sending grant funds to a Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Opportunity Zone, the investment in rebuilding and expanding Santa Fe College’s CIED facility will not only grow new business sectors, including IT, technology and other knowledge-based industries, but also attract additional investment with special tax incentives,” U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in a statement.

The project was made possible by the regional planning efforts led by the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council, which is funded by the EDA to bring the public and private sectors together with a goal of developing an economic development roadmap to strengthen the regional economy, support private capital investment and create jobs.

“Santa Fe College has a strong commitment to opportunity for all of our citizens,” says Lehman. “The Opportunity Zone for Gainesville coincides with Santa Fe College’s long-term plan to develop a downtown campus to better serve our citizens.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said that by focusing on maximizing the full potential of Opportunity Zones to attract additional capital and investment, and by eliminating unnecessary occupational licensing requirements, the state of Florida “will become the best state to realize potential and find success.”

DeSantis said he applauded the project and the continued ascent of the state’s colleges and universities, which will allow industries such as technology, finance, health care and aerospace “to grow by employing our graduates in good, high-paying jobs in our low-tax, business-friendly environment.”

The project is funded under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, which allowed Congress to appropriate $600 million to EDA in additional Economic Adjustment Assistance (EAA) Program funds for disaster relief and recovery due to hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, as well as wildfires and other calendar year 2017 natural disasters under the Stafford Act.