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Remarks by Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross at the EDA Grant Announcement Leon County Research and Development Authority Tallahassee, Florida


Thank you, Ron, for that kind introduction and for welcoming us to this impressive Innovation Park. And my thanks also to Commissioner Dozier and Mayor Dailey for joining us this afternoon. I am grateful to all of you for your commitment to meet today in the midst of Hurricane Sally’s disruption. My prayers go out to everyone affected by the flooding, high winds, and damage caused by the storm yesterday and today.

I am even more pleased to be here and to witness the ingenuity and innovation that is taking place in Florida’s high-tech corridor. Leon County, with its more than 1,040 engineers, has a rich history as a technology hub. And as we emerge from the devastation of COVID-19, more and more businesses and families will choose to rely on American-made products and American made tech.

The Innovation Park of Tallahassee is answering that call. It was the brainchild of the Leon County Research and Development Authority nearly 40 years ago. This premiere research and development facility has grown to become a nucleus for innovation in magnetics, aero-propulsion, materials, energy, health, and life sciences.

Spanning 208 acres, the park is strategically located nearby to Florida State University, Florida A&M, Tallahassee Community College, other state and private-sector partners, as well as the Tallahassee International Airport. It is home to the largest and highest-powered magnet laboratory in the world, and also the only one in the U.S., to the leading manufacturer of oil free compressors, to a technology incubator, and to other high-tech commercial ventures. And the Northwest Regional Data Center, the Park’s first tenant in 1982 and Florida’s leading data provider for educational and government communities, is still operating on its grounds.

I am looking forward to touring the Danfoss Turbocor facility here at the Innovation Park later this afternoon. In 2006, the company, the world leader in oil free compression technology, relocated from Canada to take advantage of the Park’s many resources. The company has since then expanded its plant by nearly 45,000 square feet and included an application development center. It serves customers in over 100 countries and provides employee training through webinars, e-lessons, and face-to-face classes.

Innovation Park has now grown to include 17 buildings and more than 30 organizations.  It is also home to 13 Centers of Excellence, which are setting precedents in each of their industries. Many private companies, including some of the Fortune 500, can come here to utilize unique resources not found anywhere else in the world.

It is with respect for these achievements that I am especially pleased to announce that the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration is investing $10.2 million to construct a new business incubator in Innovation Park. The proposed project will help promote economic diversity and resilience in the wake of Hurricane Michael, the third major storm to hit the Florida Panhandle in the last three years. The EDA grant will be matched by more than $6.8 million in local investment. You should give yourselves a big hand for that.

Plans call for the construction of a 40,000 square-foot, one-story, high-tech business incubator to be cited on 3.51 acres in what is now a largely open field. The new building will provide a fertile environment for the formation and growth of innovative young start-up technology companies. They will have access to entrepreneurial programs that offer mentoring, business and management assistance, specialized resources and equipment, and small business match-making services. This project will aid in the formation and establishment of new technology businesses throughout Northwest Florida.

It will also add to, and help diversify, the overall economy with the introduction of new high-wage, high growth industries. The Leon County Research and Development Authority estimates the incubator will create 639 jobs over ten years. In fostering a dynamic and collaborative community, the Innovation Park is brightening the future for the Panhandle, for those of us, like myself, who call Florida home, and for the United States.

Finally, I want to thank the Apalachee Regional Planning Council, whom EDA funds, and whose regional planning efforts were critical to this project. Working together with the public and private sectors, they created an economic development roadmap to strengthen the regional economy, support private capital investment, and create new jobs.

I also want to thank the many others whose support is making this important project possible. We will look forward to the groundbreaking, and grand opening, of Innovation Park’s new business incubator.

Before I close, I would be remiss if I did not mention how essential it is for everyone in the Tallahassee metropolitan region to please fill out their Census surveys. To date, Leon County’s self-response rate is only 62.3 percent. Worse than that, 57.9 percent of residents in the city of Tallahassee have self-responded so far. That’s shy of Florida’s average self-response rate of 62.6 percent. You’re almost 5 points down from that, and it’s also way below and the national self-response rate of 65.8 percent. You’re almost 8 points below that.

You can do it! And you really need to do it because if you don’t get an accurate count, you’re not going to get your fair share of the allocation of hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funds over the next decade, including money like we are giving you now, and your representation in Congress also can be reduced.

The disbursal of future housing, healthcare, and educational funds are all determined by the 2020 Census. And that will be true every year for the next 10 years. Don’t give away your next 10 years. I urge all of you here to engage with your workers, your community organizations, and your local governments to stress the importance of going online and filling out the form. It is safe, easy and important. And self-responding online saves a Census enumerator a trip to your home to administer the survey in-person. More than 140 million households have been counted in the 2020 Decennial Census so far, and I hope I’ve encouraged those of you who haven’t yet to join them by responding today at 2020 Census dot gov.

Now I’d like to call Ron back up here along with Leon County Research and Development Authority Chair Kimberly Moore to accept this very much deserved grant of 10.2 million dollars for the new business incubator in Innovation Park. Congratulations!