Sunday, March 22, 2009

Florida House Bill Would Make It Easier To Fight Alabama For Economic Development

March 5, 2009

A proposed bill in the Florida House would give Florida counties that border Alabama and Georgia a little extra ammunition in their fight for economic development.

On Wednesday, Florida Rep. Dave Murzin announced proposed changes to the Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI) and the Rural Infrastructure Fund (RIF) included in a proposed economic development committee bill.

Essentially, the bill would allow counties like Escambia and Santa Rosa that border either Alabama or Georgia to be reclassified as rural to allow for more economic development funding.

“Border counties are currently at a competitive disadvantage when competing against another stat for economic development,” Murzin told Tuesday afternoon. The bill would allow the rural designation to be applied based upon the average population per square mile, ignoring the fact that a county like Escambia is very urban in one part of the county.

“These changes will help Florida’s border counties be more competitive with neighboring states,” said Murzin. “Especially in Escambia County, where we are adjacent to Alabama on two sides, we have a real need to level the playing field and ensure our business community can compete strongly in a multistate region.”

The proposed REDI and RIF changes will expand the definition of rural in several sections of the Florida Statutes to include counties that exhibit rural characteristics but exceed population thresholds. With this change in the definition, some Northwest Florida counties will be able to access REDI resources and state infrastructure grants, if available, as well as technical assistance.

Murzin said the bill was reported favorably by the Economic Development Policy Committee Wednesday morning.

Century Mayor Freddie McCall told recently that it is hard for Florida to complete on the economic development front against Alabama.

“We all know that Alabama is more free with money for industry than Florida,” McCall said recently. “Something has got to change if Florida is going to compete with Alabama.”

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