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- 2012 - November - 28th -

Scott wants training program doubled to $12 million

by David Chapman, Staff Writer

Gov. Rick Scott announced Tuesday he plans to double the size of a state workforce training incentive.

The Quick Response Training Program provided $5.9 million in grants to support the creation of 3,990 jobs and upgrade training for 4,888 existing full-time employees for the fiscal year that ended June 30, according to Workforce Florida, which awards the grants.

Scott was in town to make the announcement at supermarket chain Bi-Lo's headquarters in West Jacksonville. He said he will ask legislators to boost the program to $12 million.

"If we can help companies who train their employees, incentivize them to come to the state while at the same time the state taxpayers get a return on that money, it's a win-win for everybody," Scott said.

Scott said he wants the return to be five times the investment.

When Bi-Lo acquired Jacksonville-based Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. in March for $560 million, the company sought incentives to keep the corporate headquarters in Jacksonville instead of Greenville, S.C., where Bi-Lo was based.

Of the $6.64 million in incentives from the City and state, $1.04 million came from the Quick Response Training grant program.

Scott said doubling the program would make Florida more competitive in economic development.

"This state is going to grow faster and faster," Scott said. "We are going to have more opportunities."

According to Workforce Florida, a 2011 U.S. Chamber of Commerce report named Florida as No. 1 for workforce job and training programs.

Scott said boosting the workforce training incentive was one of a "smorgasbord" of options to attract business.

"Every company needs something different," he said.

Bi-Lo President and CEO Randall Onstead introduced Scott and described their first meeting during the headquarters negotiations.

Onstead said he was impressed with Scott's questioning about the strong push for a return on investment for the incentives.

"I thought that was a pretty refreshing approach," Onstead said.

Onstead said growth was the key to Bi-Lo's success.

"Our business today is stronger than it has been in many, many years," he said.

dchapman@baileypub.com

(904) 356-2466

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