Government funding helps bring new business to Holmes County

BONIFAY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) – Building a strong economy starts with stable infrastructure. This is not an easy task or a cheap one, especially for some of our more rural communities, but Governor Ron DeSantis is working to support it. Last week he announced that $5 million would go towards infrastructure improvement projects in the Panhandle.

The money is funded through the Rural Infrastructure Fund (RIF) program administered by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. It involves upgrading water and sanitation systems, building public roads and renovating public buildings in Calhoun, Gadsden, Holmes, Jackson, Liberty and Washington counties.

The former Bonifay Middle School was left to rot in 2018 when the doors closed. What some saw as a lost cause, the Holmes County Development Commission saw as an opportunity.

“We’re trying to create jobs for the people,” said Joe Rone, executive director of the Holmes County Development Commission.

Last year, a Pennsylvania manufacturing company decided to set up shop inside, creating 65 jobs alone.

“People there love their jobs and now they are expanding about 40 more jobs and we are calling for the rural infrastructure grant to help us at this school make the changes needed to get those jobs,” said Ron.

Last week, Gov. DeSantis announced nearly millions will go toward infrastructure investments in rural Panhandle communities, with just over $360,000 going directly toward school renovations.

“We want it to be like an incubator, and we also want to bring these bigger employers here where we can get 20, 30, 40 jobs,” Rone said.

Big employers are already rolling in, with a new Busy Bee convenience store being built on the corner of Highway 79 and I-10.

“You’re coming to Bonifay, just off the interstate. They will build their biggest site ever. Biggest in pumps, biggest in square feet,” said Rone.

The largest portion of this grant, a whopping $1,870,700, will pay for the water and sanitation infrastructure needed to build the one-stop shop. It will attract $20 million in capital investment and create 120 jobs.

“We want to improve the lives of people in our community and it does,” said Rone. “This is going to change Holmes County.”

The Busy Bee is expected to open in 2024.

Rone said they want to start renovating the middle school. Once they get the money, they will work on the expansion.

Below is a full list of communities receiving program funds:

  • City of Bonifay ($362,839) — Renovation of former Bonifay Middle School facility to allow for business expansion and create 40 jobs.
  • City of Cottondale ($300,000) — Conducted a study to develop plans and construction cost estimates to upgrade the city’s sewage treatment plant and spray field, which will serve a $50 million business expansion project and create more than 50 new jobs.
  • City of Alford ($285,000) — Conducted a study to identify deficiencies in the current drinking water system and the best options for providing an adequate water supply for local business expansion and future business development.
  • City of Campbellton ($494,500) — Design and construction of public parking lots in the downtown business corridor to give customers access to new and expanding local businesses.
  • City of Grand Ridge ($274,500) — Conducted a study to identify and address deficiencies in the current stormwater system that are causing repeated flooding of commercial and residential areas. The study includes recommended mitigation actions, preliminary plans and estimated costs for implementing a comprehensive stormwater plan.
  • holmes County ($1,870,700) — Expansion of water and wastewater infrastructure for Project Gateway, a new 40,000 square foot travel center that will create 120 jobs and a $20 million capital investment in the region.
  • Jackson County ($982,850) – Design, permitting and construction of public road and utility infrastructure for Project TAP, an advanced manufacturing facility that will create or sustain 25 jobs and will have a $3.5 million capital investment in the region.
  • Washington County ($300,000) — Securing engineering services for proposed infrastructure improvements for site certification of a newly developed 200-acre industrial park that will attract new businesses and industries to the county.

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