The Okaloosa County Commission on Tuesday will be asked to vote on whether to give $1 million worth of bed-tax funded incentives to an airline at Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport that wants to expand into new markets.
The “incumbent air carrier” wants to expand its base operations and offer more jobs at VPS, as well as bring more visitors to the area from September through May, according to county Tourist Development Department Director Jennifer Adams.
The company has been in talks with the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County and other government officials about the possible incentive money. In documents about the potential funding, county officials refer to the airline's possible expansion as “Project True Blue” but do not identify the airline.
The airlines that currently operate at VPS are Allegiant, American Airlines, Contour Airlines, Delta, Glo and United.
In an agenda request to the commission, Adams wrote that the TDD has $1.75 million in reserve funds for promotional activities. Along with the possible $1 million worth of requested bed-tax money, the airline could receive up to $475,000 in matching funds from Visit Florida’s “Air Team Florida” program.
The county Tourist Development Council unanimously agreed Thursday to make a recommendation to the commission to approve the $1 million in local funding.
The potential bed-tax money would help pay for the airline’s marketing expenses and the possible Visit Florida funding would help pay for the business's operation expenses, Adams told the TDC. She said the combined potential funding would help the airline provide an estimated 80 new jobs and offer flights to new markets.
For any future bed-tax funding requests, the airline would be required to provide a minimum 50 percent match, according to information from Adams.
That caveat shows that the business has “skin in the game and that they’re committed to their operations in our region,” she told the TDC.
The airline “is subject to some confidentiality” but, “I don’t think anybody up here (on the TDC dais) is spending a million dollars with under as vague as terms as it might sound like,” County Commissioner and TDC member Trey Goodwin said. “I do think that this is a very, very worthy endeavor” and “I suspect that the entire board is very well informed” on the airline’s identity.
Nathan Sparks, executive director of the Economic Development Council, recently told the Daily News that one of the reasons for keeping an incentive-seeking business confidential is to prevent another region or state from being tipped off and making the company a better offer.
Tuesday's commission meeting starts at 8:30 a.m. at Crestview City Hall.