Debate over projects to fund with Triumph Gulf Coast

Debate over projects to fund with Triumph Gulf Coast

Triumph Gulf Coast will soon hand out more than $1.5 billion, but first, they must figure out how they will decide to award the money.

There are two philosophies on distributing the money. One school of thought believes the money should be spent on roads and infrastructure improvements.

The other believes it should be used to incentive businesses to make the Emerald Coast home.

A committee appointed by the state will decide who will get the money or what it'll be used for.

Commissioner Nathan Boyles said most the money should go to infrastructure projects to compliment good schools and high standards of living to attract businesses.

"My focus, and I believe the focus of the general view of the public, is that we should focus on critical and needed infrastructure that will move Northwest Florida forward," Commissioner Boyles said.

He said by doing that growth and jobs will follow.

"If we can't keep up, if traffic is shut down on Highway 85 every afternoon, then you are unlikely to recruit those businesses because they can't move that workforce," Commissioner Boyles said.

President of the Niceville-Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce Tricia Brunson agrees about the roads but thinks the bulk of the money should be used to draw new business to the area.

She believes the need to diversify the type of businesses in the area has to take priority.

"The Triumph funds, as I understand them, are to further diversify our economy and to help bring more jobs and more business so that if there is a problem with the tourism industry or with the defense community, we have other options," Brunson said.

She advocates using the money to incentives, which will create jobs not reliant on the military or tourism; jobs which she said the significant number of young underemployed people here could take advantage of.

"Because we want to attract the younger people to come in, take jobs and make this their place to live and stay. At this point, it's very difficult and those jobs are harder to find," Brunson said.

The county plans to put a sales tax on the ballot to match funds for road improvements in Okaloosa County. Commissioners are looking at sending a mail in ballot in around two months

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