State gives mystery “Project Magellan” a nearly $21 million boost

Matt Dixon, (@Mdixon55)

What’s “Project Magellan?” So far, only a select few state officials know, but one thing is clear: The project has nearly $21 million in taxpayer funds to help it get off the ground.

The Legislative Budget Commission Tuesday approved $20.8 million in economic incentives to a company that has either agreed to relocate or expand in Florida. Like many economic development projects, the details are a closely guarded secret until the deal is done, so the project is only publicly known as “Project Magellan” at this point.

Florida Today reported Tuesday that the money will go to an aviation company that will create 1,800 jobs at the Melbourne International Airport. The paper is reporting those jobs will average $100,000 a year.

The funding is coming from the Quick Action Closing fund, which is a pot of money Gov. Rick Scott can quickly dip into to offer incentives for company relocation or expansion. The quick jolt of cash at Scott’s disposal is to help overcome “a documented competitive disadvantage when compared to other non-Florida locations,” according to the committee’s meeting packet. The commission can quickly authorize the release of money from the fund.

This year the fund had a total of nearly $74 million. Of that, roughly $52 million has been doled out this year, including the Magellan money.

The incentive package was approved on a unanimous vote with no comment. The entire meeting took less than five minutes.

Senate Budget Chief Joe Negron, R-Stuart, who knows the specifics of the project, does not have a problem giving out the large sum of money to a mostly unknown project because he trusts state staff assigned with vetting the project.

“I think the governor’s office, Gov. Scott personally, and DEO [the Department of Economic Opportunity] have carefully vetted these projects,” Negron said.

Jesse Panuccio, DEO’s executive director, was asked by reporters if a process involving millions of taxpayer dollars should have more transparency.

“The law specifies how these projects go and we, as a department, follow the law,” he said.

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