FILE - U.S. Coast Guard Florida base

US Coast Guard vessels docked at its home base in Biscayne Bay in the Port of Miami, Florida.

Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity [DEO] has distributed more than $2.9 million in grants for infrastructure and economic development programs to support communities reliant on the 21 military installations across the Sunshine State.

“As a veteran, I know the value in supporting Florida’s military installations and their surrounding communities,” Gov. Ron DeSantis, who served in the Navy during the Iraq War, said in a statement accompanying last week's DEO announcement.

The state’s Defense Infrastructure Grant Program and the Defense Reinvestment Grant Program, administered by the DEO, provide “funding to defense-dependent communities to support advocacy and military community relations.”

While tourism and agriculture are Florida’s biggest industries, often overlooked is the $75-plus billion economic impact generated by military and defense spending in the Sunshine State.

According to a 2018 research paper by Connor James for the Tallahassee-based James Madison Institute, more than 800,000 Floridians are employed by the military or by 17,900 defense-related companies, accounting for 9.2 percent of the state’s gross domestic product.

“In 2016, the Florida Chamber Foundation said that the military and defense industry’s total economic impact may be over $100 billion by 2030,” James writes. “The projected number is a $25 billion increase from what the impact is now. However, the projection cited that federal budget cuts and military drawdown could impair this number. In the two years since the Florida Chamber made that forecast, the opposite has happened.”

The EDO’s Defense Infrastructure Grant Program (DIGP) and the Defense Reinvestment Grant Program (DRGP) are annual investments by the state to ensure the bases, and the jobs they support, stay in Florida.

DIGP funds are directed to infrastructure projects that benefit local communities and military installations related to transportation, utilities, communications, housing, environment and security.

Fiscal year 2020 DIGP grants were awarded to:

Bay County Public Works: $500,000 to design a new water main to provide treated drinking water to Tyndall Air Force Base and Mexico Beach.

City of Jacksonville: $500,000 to complete the purchase of a 400-acre parcel to increase the buffer zone for flight operations at NAS Jacksonville.

Clay County Development Authority: Nearly $367,000 to resurface roads around Camp Blanding.

Space Coast Economic Development Commission: Nearly $367,000 to build a new Brevard County Emergency Management Operations Center.

Santa Rosa Board of County Commissioners: Nearly $367,000 to continue easement purchases around Whiting Field.

DRGP funds are allocated for projects that protect existing military installations, diversify the economies of defense-dependent communities and develop plans for the reuse of closed or realigned military installations.

Fiscal year 2020 DRGP grants were awarded to:

Bay Defense Alliance: $125,000 to support post-Hurricane Michael recovery efforts at Naval Support Activity Panama City and Tyndall Air Force Base.

Clay County Development Authority: $57,000 to diversify non-defense economic sectors while promoting military training operations at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center and Naval Support Activity Jacksonville.

City of Jacksonville: $100,000 to promote military/defense and aviation industry growth at Naval Air Station Jacksonville and Naval Station Mayport.

Space Coast Economic Development Council: $95,000 to support strategies for community and military partnerships, attracting new businesses and investments.

Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County: $125,000 to implement strategies to develop employment opportunities in the Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties.

The Greater Pensacola Chamber: $85,000 to expand the newly formed West Florida Defense Alliance.

Miami Dade Beacon Council: $70,000 to create opportunities for defense and private businesses to collaborate.

Orlando Economic Partnership: $75,000 to grow the defense simulation business industry.

Santa Rosa County: $58,000 to retain, create high-skilled, non-defense jobs.

Walton County Chamber of Commerce: $60,000 to develop an entrepreneurial climate in the community surrounding Eglin Air Force Base.

DeSantis noted in his comments that seven of the 15 grants totaling $1.32 million are going to military installations on the Panhandle, which were pounded by Hurricane Michael last October.

“We will continue to rebuild and create resilient bases, especially those impacted by Hurricane Michael, for the hardworking men and women who serve our country and state,” he said.