Pinellas County has forged a unique relationship with a national foundation to fund conservation.
By Stacie Kress Booker
A product of the Reagan era, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation is a business-backed conservation organization that awards grants to local environmental organizations, aiming to triple amounts local groups raise. The foundation views conservation as good business and avoids lobbying, litigation or political advocacy.
Founded in 1984, the foundation has awarded $2.8 million for more than 200 projects in Florida since 1987. Until 1997, it funneled its money exclusively through small local groups like the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission. That year, however, a meeting between foundation and Pinellas County officials led to a partnership that has enabled the county to effectively leverage the money it spends on conservation.
Here's how it works: The county established the Pinellas County Environmental Foundation, to which it makes an annual appropriation. Local environmental groups apply for funding, and an advisory committee of local conservation groups, corporations and academic institutions reviews the requests. NFWF staffers manage the foundation's grant programs, administer its funds and raise matching money from local corporations and other donors.
For two years, the county has appropriated $250,000 annually to the Pinellas foundation; this year, Congress added another $1.1 million. With matching funds from the Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Pinellas group has been able to commit some $4 million to conservation. Projects include the Tampa Bay Estuary Program's seagrass research and monitoring project, and a distance-learning project enabling Pinellas students to collect environmental data from remote sensors for classroom study.
Corporate contributions from firms like HomePort Marina in Palm Harbor, Cargill Fertilizer and Shell Oil have ranged from $10,000 for event sponsorships to $50,000 for a habitat cleanup in Largo. The Pinellas foundation is working to get companies to partner with it on an ongoing rather than per-project basis.
County officials say the need to leverage conservation funds is particularly acute in Pinellas, the state's most densely populated and most built-out county.
NFWF regional director Peter Stangel says the national foundation is eager to get other counties to buy into the concept. Manatee and Brevard officials are meeting with the Pinellas foundation to find out how to establish similar organizations. Getting neighboring counties to cooperate is a priority. "Ideally, this becomes a regional foundation," says Stangel. "We'd love to see it go from the Pinellas County Environmental Foundation to the Tampa Bay Environmental Foundation."
In the News
DE SOTO COUNTY -- Progress Energy, the North Carolina parent company of Florida Power Corp., is building a wholesale power plant near Arcadia on a 30-acre site it purchased from New Orleans-based Entergy Corp. The 320-megawatt, natural gas-fired plant is expected to be operational June 2002 and cost in excess of $100 million.
LAKELAND -- Publix is building a new headquarters. The 320,000-sq.-ft., three-story building is expected to be completed in the fall of 2002. Tampa-based BECK is overseeing the project.
ST. PETERSBURG -- Raymond James Financial announced a $41-million expansion at its Carillon Park headquarters that will include a nine-story building and parking garage. The company will receive a $1.5-million state incentive for the 500 jobs the expansion will create.
The City Council recently approved a $345,000 tax incentive for Jabil Circuit, which is considering building a technology center that could generate up to 1,150 jobs with starting salaries of $40,000. The state is expected to offer another $2.7 million. But Jabil has not confirmed it will build in St. Pete. The electronics manufacturer is also considering Mexico and two other undisclosed U.S. locations.
Tropicana Partners LLC has purchased prime downtown land for $4 million and is considering a hotel/retail complex for a site close to BayWalk, the city's $40-million retail and entertainment complex that opened last year. Tropicana is a partnership between a local developer and Florida East Coast Realty, the developer of Omni mall in Miami.
TAMPA -- Tampa's Davel Communications and Cleveland-based PhoneTel Technologies are merging. The deal between two of the largest independent pay-phone service providers includes a substantial debt restructuring for each, giving their lenders a 90% stake in the combined company. PhoneTel has $55 million in outstanding debt; Davel, $261 million.
Fashion retailer Nordstrom is hiring 280 employees for its new store in International Plaza. The McLean, Va.-based company is also relocating 36 managers to the Tampa store, which opens this month.
Holland America is adding a second cruise ship at the Port of Tampa. The 1,266-passenger Veendam will set sail from Tampa to the Caribbean beginning in October 2002. It's the port's fourth newcomer. Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Lines are all adding ships in the next year.
Home Depot has tapped CommerceQuest to supply integration software as part of the retailing giant's massive technology upgrade to tie its 1,500 stores, suppliers and business systems together.
A Bellair Beach developer plans to build a 30-unit residential tower in the city's Channel district, an old warehouse neighborhood near the Port of Tampa. The $16-million project, to be called Washington Street Crossing, will feature two-story lofts ranging from $499,000 to $699,000 and retail and office space on the ground floor. Groundbreaking will begin in six months.
Beverly Enterprises is pulling out of Florida, selling its 10 nursing homes and one assisted living facility in the Tampa Bay area. The company, which has 52 Florida properties for sale, cited high legal and liability insurance costs.
The Tampa/St. Petersburg/Clearwater economy is the biggest in the state, with $82 billion in goods and services produced in 2000, according to a study conducted for the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Miami has the second-biggest economy, with a gross product of almost $72 billion. Orlando ranked third in the state at nearly $60 billion.
NEW PORT RICHEY -- Pasco County's first charter school, Dayspring Academy, has moved into an 11,000-sq.-ft. facility in New Port Richey. The new location allows the school, which is entering its second year, to accept students through the ninth grade.
MANATEE COUNTY -- Manatee County wants to expand impact fees countywide. Currently, the county imposes the fees on developments in unincorporated areas only. But under state law it can levy impact fees on developments within city boundaries if the city doesn't already do so. Bradenton and Palmetto are objecting to the attempt.
SARASOTA -- DNAPrint Genomics is partnering with DNAPro, a small Malaysian biotech company, to conduct genetic testing in Selangor, Malaysia. The joint venture, called DNAPrint Malaysia, allows DNAPrint to apply for $4 million in grant money from the Malaysian government. The company specializes in pharmacogenomics, also known as personalized medicine, the matching of the best prescription drug to an individual based on genetic makeup.
CFDC Under Fire
The Central Florida Development Council has seen better days. Founded 16 years ago as a public-private initiative, it's been widely credited with helping Polk County diversify its agrarian/mining economy by recruiting big name companies like Breed Technologies, Geico and State Farm. Now Polk County Commissioner Bruce Parker is charging the council with illegal and unethical practices. The council's president, Bill McDermott, resigned under fire in July.
Parker says the CFDC has become a self-promoting agency that pays certain staffers unauthorized monthly car allowances and operates outside of the state's Sunshine laws.
The CFDC says the car allowances were approved at county commission meetings and that as a private group, the council's meetings do not always have to be open.
Parker has requested the U.S. Attorney's public corruption unit investigate and says he's already met with an FBI agent assigned to the case. The CFDC says the charges are unfounded.
Meanwhile, County Manager Jim Keene's office says the council will be restructured and its funding, while it will continue, may be cut.