FloridaCommerce Press Releases

FloridaCommerce Highlights Major 2023 Accomplishments, Leads State’s Economic Mission Under Governor Ron DeSantis’ Strong Leadership

Dec 28, 2023

FloridaCommerce Highlights Major 2023 Accomplishments, Leads State’s Economic Mission Under Governor Ron DeSantis’ Strong Leadership 

Tallahassee, Fla. – Today, FloridaCommerce Secretary J. Alex Kelly highlights major milestones accomplished in 2023 under Governor Ron DeSantis Strong leadership.

“2023 brought many milestones for FloridaCommerce and for Florida’s economy. Florida is #1 in the nation for entrepreneurship, talent development and new business formations proving that despite record inflation, national economic headwinds and destructive weather events— with the right leadership growth is inevitable,” said Florida Secretary of Commerce J. Alex Kelly . “This year, FloridaCommerce stepped into the driver’s seat to streamline economic development without disrupting Florida’s economic momentum. FloridaCommerce remains laser focused on four pillars of investment including workforce readiness, site readiness, financial readiness and housing readiness. All four pillars are critical to our economic development efforts – one cannot exist successfully without the other. I am thankful for all that was achieved in 2023 and I know that under the Governor’s vision, we will continue to grow Florida’s economy, businesses and communities, next year and for generations to come.” 

In May 2023, House Bill 5 was signed by the Governor starting the transition from The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity to FloridaCommerce. This year’s transition aimed to gain efficiencies and reduce the size of government for both the benefit of job seekers and job creators. Five new offices were created - SelectFlorida, The Office of Military and Defense, The Office of Partnership Engagement, The Office of Small Business Innovation and The Office of Rural communities. Together, they continue to promote and develop Florida as a location for business growth, recruitment and retention—with an eye towards securing Floridians economic future for years to come.

FloridaCommerce has championed the Governor’s economic development vision through continuous communication with its statewide and local economic development partners, active outreach to Florida’s business community, and collaboration with other state agencies, such as the REACH Office, CareerSource Florida, the Florida Department of Education, the Department of Children and Families, the Florida Department of Transportation, Florida Housing Finance Corporation, Space Florida, and VISIT FLORIDA, Florida Development Finance Corporation, Florida Opportunity Fund, Florida Sports Foundation and the State University System Board of Governors.

In December, FloridaCommerce Announced that Florida’s Labor Force Continues to Thrive, Outpacing the Nation in over-the-year growth for 30 Consecutive Months . Florida continues to outpace the nation in over-the-year private sector job growth rate for 32 consecutive months as of November 2023 data. Florida was also ranked #1 for entrepreneurship by researchers at The Digital Project Manager with more than 2.8 million business formations under Governor DeSantis’ leadership. Floridians continue to show their confidence in the opportunities available to them with continued growth in the labor force by 17,000 and private sector employment by 28,300 over-the-month in November 2023.

Florida’s labor force has grown or remained steady for 37 consecutive months with an over-the-year growth rate of 3.2 percent in November 2023—faster than the national rate of 2.3 percent over the same time period. Moreover, according to The Digital Project Manager, “With 13,238 small businesses per 100,000 of the population, this is the most in any state. Floridians have an entrepreneurial mindset that doesn't only benefit themselves but their communities with the jobs that they create."

FloridaCommerce is proud to highlight the following achievements, programs, and successes throughout 2023.

Disaster Recovery

  • Georgia-Pacific Mill Closure Response 
    • In September, Governor DeSantis directed FloridaCommerce to host job fairs in response to the Georgia-Pacific Mill closure. FloridaCommerce organized more than ten state agencies and partners to co-locate to connect residents with hiring employers and job training opportunities. These efforts only added to the disaster recovery resources already on the ground. Additionally, volunteers were on site assisting residents with hurricane recovery resources like Disaster Unemployment Assistance and Small Business Emergency Bridge Loans.
    • Additionally in October, President of Businesses Development Laura DiBella attended the London Pulp Week Symposium connecting with industry leaders and business owners to form connections and replace the jobs that will be lost through the Georgia-Pacific Mill closure. 
  • Hurricane Idalia Recovery
    • FloridaCommerce provided relief to local governments impacted by federally declared disasters through the Local Government Emergency Revolving Bridge Loan Program. Through 2023, the following local governments have received funding through this program.
      • Lee County - $25,000,000
      • City of Sanibel - $15,260,511
      • Fort Myers Beach - $11,900,00
      • Bonita Springs - $2,000,000
      • Crystal River- $5,000,000
  • Hurricane Ian Recovery
    • On March 15, 2023, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that the State of Florida would receive $910 million in Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funding to support long-term resiliency in response to Hurricane Ian. 
    • On September 13, 2023, FloridaCommerce submitted the State Action Plan to operationalize the $910 million in CDBG-DR funding to HUD. On November 9, 2023, the State Action Plan was approved by HUD.
  • Hurricane Michael Recovery
    • During Summer 2023, The Rebuild Florida Hurricane Michael HRRP achieved 979 completed homes, returning all applicants to decent, safe, and sanitary homes in just twenty months, more than three years ahead of schedule. 
  • Hurricane Irma Recovery  
    • As of December 14, the Hurricane Irma HRRP has returned 3,458 homeowners to decent, safe, and sanitary homes, and there are 475 additional projects currently underway. In September 2020, the Hurricane Irma HRRP had completed 161 homes. Under the leadership of Governor Ron DeSantis, FloridaCommerce has completed and additional 3,297 housing repair and replacements, an increase of over 2,000 percent.
  • Hurricane Sally Recovery
    • In July 2023, Governor Ron DeSantis awarded $187 million to communities impacted by Hurricane Sally through the Rebuild Florida Infrastructure Repair Program, the Voluntary Home Buyout Program, the Workforce Recovery Training Program, the Hometown Revitalization Program, the Workforce Affordable Housing Construction Program and the Housing Repair and Replacement Program.

Workforce Readiness 

In 2023, FloridaCommerce advanced Florida’s economic vision through smart, strategic investments. This historic growth within our state creates an immense opportunity for Florida to continue expanding – while ensuring we have the highly-skilled individuals, many requiring four-year-degrees, to grow into our competitive industries. 

  • Florida Job Growth Grant Fund
    • The Florida Job Growth Grant Fund is an economic development program designed to promote public infrastructure and workforce training across the state. Since January 2023, Governor Ron DeSantis has announced more than $56 million that has been awarded to 15 different communities and education institutions for economic development, which is projected to create 11,958 jobs and training opportunities for Floridians over the next 10 years. 
    • In November, Governor DeSantis announced more than $28 million through the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund to expand semiconductor manufacturing and chip manufacturing through five workforce development projects. These awards are part of a cutting-edge workforce development initiative announced by Governor DeSantis to dedicate at least $25 million to support the semiconductor industry through the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund. Across the state, these funds will create high-demand, high-wage jobs for Floridians and strengthen local talent pipelines for businesses. Florida is already #5 in the US for semiconductor manufacturing jobs and #3 in the nation for semiconductor establishments.
    • In December , Governor DeSantis awarded more than $6.5 million through the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund (JGGF) to support key infrastructure improvements that will help bridge supply chain gaps and increase access to industrial sites. The JGGF awards will help expand business opportunities and create more than 2,900 new high-wage jobs and facilitate the growth of Florida’s aerospace, defense and manufacturing sectors.
  • Law Enforcement Recruitment Bonus Payment Program
    • The Florida Law Enforcement Recruitment Bonus Payment Program reinforces Florida’s position as the best state in the nation to be a sworn law enforcement officer, encouraging Floridians to join the law enforcement profession and out-of-state law enforcement professionals to bring their skills to the Sunshine State. To date, officers from all 50 states and two US territories have moved to Florida or joined the profession since Florida launched the Law Enforcement Recruitment Bonus Program. Nearly 4,000 bonuses of $5,000 after taxes have been awarded to new recruits and law enforcement officers who have moved to Florida, bringing the total amount awarded through the program to more than $2.8 million to date.
  • Florida Essential First Responders Recognition Program
    • In September, FloridaCommerce began issuing $1,000 bonuses, after taxes, through the Essential First Responders Recognition Program to sworn law enforcement officers, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), firefighters, and paramedics to recognize their dedicated service. To date, FloridaCommerce has issued $106.5 million in recognition payments to more than 80,000 of Florida’s first responders.
  • Annual Veterans Workforce Summit
    • In October, FloridaCommerce hosted the third annual Veterans Workforce Summit in Orlando, which served as the statewide training for the Jobs for Veterans’ State Grant, where Local Workforce Development Board (LWDB) staff received training to support Florida’s 1.5 million veterans, transitioning service members, and eligible spouses as they find and embark on meaningful careers.
    • FloridaCommerce, in coordination with the REACH Office, The Florida Department of Children and Families, the Department of Education, Florida Digital Service, and CareerSource Florida, has led a multi-year initiative to provide Floridians with a “no wrong door” to improve access to state and federally funded programs for individuals needing assistance gaining access to workforce related programs. FloridaCommerce and the state’s Workforce Partner Agencies have made significant progress on the FL WINS program in 2023, including the completion of initial discovery activities that helped develop a Target Operating Model, which includes a Requirements Traceability Matrix and Service Blueprint, to inform the technical and programmatic needs for building the customer portal. 
  • Hope Florida
    • FloridaCommerce is supporting the Department and Children and Families and CareerSource Florida to serve individuals with barriers to employment by coordinating efforts to join forces with private sector companies to collaborate on available employment opportunities and provide triage for the unique challenges creating a barrier to Floridians seeking employment. Hope Florida Navigators are available in the career centers throughout the state, helping provide the opportunity for clients to engage and received job readiness services that include training activities which allow them to discover career pathways leading to self-sufficiency.  
  • Disaster Recovery Workforce Support 
    • In 2023, Local workforce development boards in areas affected by Hurricanes Ian, Nicole and Severe Flooding in South Florida, received over $20,000,000 to help unemployed individuals work in temporary disaster-relief jobs that do cleanup and restoration of damaged public properties and provide humanitarian assistance to individuals and employers affected by the storm. Additionally, FloridaCommerce provided over $7 million to institutions of higher education in affected areas to develop and implement quick certification training programs that allow unemployed individuals gain the skills necessary to find employment in demand occupations, including truck driving, construction and information technology.

Site Readiness

Florida is competing in a global economy, and having modern, site-ready infrastructure is important to ultimately bring competitive industries to Florida, where we are also developing our talent pipeline to meet their needs.

  • Office of Broadband
    • The Florida Office of Broadband has continued its work to expand broadband access in unserved and underserved communities, increasing the availability and effectiveness of broadband internet throughout the state, creating a connected economy.
    • In February, Governor Ron DeSantis announced the first set of awards through the Broadband Opportunity Grant Program to expand access to broadband internet for Florida’s underserved communities. To date, more than $226 million has been awarded for 88 strategic projects in 40 Florida counties for broadband internet expansion that will impact more than 181,605 unserved and underserved businesses and homes.
    • In July, FloridaCommerce announced more than $86 million in broadband grants is available to help communities create public locations for Floridians to access digital workforce, education and healthcare opportunities through the Multi-Purpose Community Facility Projects Program.
    • Additionally in July, Governor Ron DeSantis awarded  more than $247 million through the Capital Project Fund - Broadband Infrastructure program, connecting more than 59,000 unserved and underserved businesses, homes, farms and anchor institutions like hospitals and libraries to high-speed Internet. This infrastructure deployment through 63 strategic projects in 43 Florida counties will ensures that Florida residents have reliable and efficient access to workforce, education and health monitoring opportunities for generations to come.
    • This year, FloridaCommerce hosted the inaugural Florida Broadband Summit on September 21-22, 2023 . This event brought together more than 300 broadband industry professionals, local government officials, workforce and economic development professionals, and community organizations to share information and discuss the expansion and adoption of broadband across the state and how these services impact Florida's economy.
  • Military and Defense Grant Programs 
    • In June Governor Ron DeSantis announced more than $6.1 million in awards to military communities through the Defense Infrastructure Grant Program, the Defense Reinvestment Grant Program, and the Florida Dense Support Task Force Grant Program.
  • Rural Infrastructure Fund
    • In 2023, the Rural Infrastructure Fund (RIF) awarded more than $43.6 million to 22 rural communities in Florida to help facilitate the planning, preparing, and financing of infrastructure projects in rural communities that encourage job creation, capital investment, and the strengthening and diversification of rural economies.
    • In June 2023, Governor Ron DeSantis signed House Bill (HB) 1209 to support rural development and economic opportunity by expanding opportunities for rural communities to be awarded funding through the RIF Program. Under HB 1209, FloridaCommerce will now be able to award 75 percent of the infrastructure project cost. And for fiscally constrained counties or rural areas of opportunity, FloridaCommerce will be able to award 100 percent of the total project cost. Additionally, this bill will allow more rural communities to apply for funding through the RIF program and remove barriers that currently prevent local communities from qualifying.
  • Community Planning Technical Assistance and Competitive Florida Partnership Grant Program
    • This year, $1.8 million in funding was made available to eligible organizations and local governments for community planning and strategic economic development initiatives.  
    • $1.2 million was then awarded to communities through the CPTA Grant Program. These awards build upon nearly $1.5 Million to assist with community planning projects, awarded last year and a total of more than $4.7 million awarded to over 90 Florida communities through the program since 2019.  

Financial Readiness

Florida's economic development partnerships national and abroad are responsible for supporting job creators and businesses, providing the tools and resources necessary to foster business growth, retain existing business, and attract new businesses.

  • SelectFlorida
    • In 2023, the state of Florida successfully enabled, competed for, and accelerated 72 company relocations/expansions, with a projected 12,663 jobs and more than $3.5 billion in capital investment. Florida’s international trade programs provided more than 2,700 export consultations to more than 1,900 Florida-based companies in 50 counties. 
  • State Small Business Credit Initiative 
    • The State Small Business Credit Initiative facilitates and expands access to capital for small businesses who would otherwise not be able to receive funding and provides businesses with additional resources to facilitate growth and economic development. In 2023 FloridaCommerce disbursed over $121 million in approved loans and investments to Florida small businesses through the State Small Business Credit Initiative 2.0.
  • Capital Investment Tax Credit
    • The Capital Investment Tax Credit program is used to attract and grow capital-intensive industries in Florida. 16 applications were approved in 2023. Combined, these projects are projected to make more than $3.6 billion in Florida capital investment.
  • Emergency Bridge Loan Program
    • In 2023, FloridaCommerce assisted Florida residents impacted by the historic flooding in Broward County and Hurricane Idalia. FloridaCommerce activated the to help businesses get back on their feet and retain their employees as they rebuild and recover following the flooding in Broward County and devastation caused by Hurricane Idalia. Since activation, the program has loaned over $16 million to assist more than 429 small businesses.
  • SecureFlorida
    • In November, Governor Ron DeSantis announced  the launch of the SecureFlorida Portal, where foreign principals from foreign countries of concern must register property as required by sections 692.203 and 692.204, Florida Statutes. These registration requirements for foreign principals were created by Senate Bill 264—signed by Governor DeSantis in May as part of the strongest legislation in the nation counteracting the malign influence of the People’s Republic of China and other countries of concern.

Housing Readiness

In 2023, FloridaCommerce prioritized providing affordable housing opportunities for Florida residents to ensure Florida remains a guidepost for the nation.  

  • Community Development Block Grant Program 

In 2023, more than $48.3 million in Community Development Block Grant program funding has been awarded through the CDBG-Small Cities 

    programs to rehabilitate or replace homes, stabilize and improve neighborhoods and commercial areas, and create or retain jobs.

  • Community Services Block Grant Program
    • In 2023, Florida’s Community Services Block Grant program provided $22 million in assistance to 110,381 households with needed services aimed to improve their quality of life and achieve higher levels of self-sufficiency. These funds provide emergency financial assistance for education, nutrition, housing, health care, and employment. The funds are also used to provide long-term strategies for the state's disadvantaged citizens and low-income communities to achieve higher levels of self-sufficiency.
  • Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program
    • In Fiscal Year 2023, more than $151 million in assistance has been provided to approximately 164,725 eligible households throughout the state through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. 
  • Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program
    • In Fiscal Year 2023, more than $22 million in assistance has been provided through the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) to 14,022 eligible households throughout the state. This program provides income-qualified families with drinking and wastewater costs. 
  • Weatherization Assistance Program
    • In 2023, through contracts with local community action agencies and nonprofits to install weatherization improvements in low-income households, Florida weatherized 830 homes, impacting the lives of 1,115 residents through the FloridaCommerce Weatherization Assistance Program. With over $1.8 million spent on weatherization activities, 69 percent of the total lives impacted included children, the elderly, and people from the community of persons with disabilities.
  • Hometown Heroes
    • In July 2023, the Hometown Heroes program received $100 million from the Florida Legislature to help Florida families purchase their first home in the community where they work. Just two months later, those funds were fully committed, helping more than 6,400 families purchase a home. Recently, partners at the Florida Housing Finance Corporation announced  that the Hometown Heroes down payment assistance program will reopen with $36 million available to families looking to purchase their first home.
  • Florida Homeowner Assistance Fund
    • Last year, Florida’s HAF program quickly became a model for the nation, providing the state’s most vulnerable homeowners with better, faster assistance than any other state. FloridaCommerce implemented a successful, robust outreach strategy for Florida’s HAF program, deploying boots on the ground to build and strengthen community partnerships in underserved and minority communities. 
    • In 2023, the Housing Counseling portion of the program is now available to Florida homeowners. To date all HAF submitted applications have been assigned to Housing Counseling Outreach Team with 1,650 applications referred to housing counseling, 3.384 homeowners who have participated in an education session, and over 26,000 homeowners have been offered housing counseling or education services. 

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