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Gov. Ron DeSantis announces $3.9 million grant that will help Orlando-Melbourne International expand facilities, create jobs Tim Walters, FLORIDA TODAY

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Gov. Ron DeSantis traveled to the Space Coast Wednesday to announce a $3.9 million infrastructure grant for Orlando Melbourne International Airport that may lead to at least 500 new jobs in Brevard County, he said.

"We consider this to be kind of the Silicon Valley of space," DeSantis said, citing recent growth announcements by Firefly Aerospace, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and OneWeb Satellites.

The $3.9 million grant will initiate construction of taxiway, stormwater, utility and road improvements that will open a 59-acre parcel of land — one of the airport's largest — for development just west of Embraer's campus, said Greg Donovan, the airport's executive director.

"We're short-listed for several major aerospace projects that are being considered as we speak. These are high-paying, high-skill jobs," Donovan said during the news conference.

"And, in fact, it's going to bring not only the ability of jobs here to MLB. But it also brings the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in capital in the facilities," he said.

"Sir, your decision in helping us with building the infrastructure to allow these companies to come here will be a lasting impression on families for years and years to come," Donovan told DeSantis.

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St. Michael Place is located off Apollo Boulevard, leading from Melbourne Police Department headquarters westward beyond Embraer's campus. 

The undeveloped 59-acre site is located just west of the terminus of St. Michael Place, stretching from Embraer's engineering center to the National Weather Service station off Croton Road. Rows of aircraft T-hangars lie just to the south.

Donovan said he hopes crews complete the $3.9 million in infrastructure work within a year. Airport officials are also applying for Federal Aviation Administration grants to prepare for prospective major corporate tenants.

"We're aggressively pitching our attributes. And we're in competition with other states — other big locations," Donovan said after the news conference.

DeSantis made the 11:30 a.m. announcement at a podium inside the STS AeroMod hangar, arriving under police escort in a silver Chevrolet Tahoe. Located off Apollo Boulevard, the hangar hosted President Donald Trump's rallies in September 2016 and February 2017.

The $3.9 million grant comes through the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund, which is intended to promote public infrastructure and workforce training for economic development.

"Investments associated with today's award are anticipated to bring more than 500 new high-paying jobs," Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Ken Lawson said.

"It's not just the numbers. We're talking about people — human beings — who have a chance to pay their mortgage, fulfill their dreams," Lawson said.

Florida Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, praised the grant award. Three years ago, he said state officials decided to move in a different direction with economic incentives, rather than give money to individual companies.

"We're choosing to become a magnet by building infrastructure and educational systems that will get them to come here," Fine said.

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Neale is the South Brevard watchdog reporter at FLORIDA TODAY. 

Contact Neale at 321-242-3638 or rneale@floridatoday.com. Twitter: @RickNeale1

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