MANATEE -- Bradenton Republicans, Sen. Bill Galvano and Rep. Jim Boyd, have jointly proposed legislation to allow manufacturers to facilitate master plan approval for sites at the local level.
As written, the bill would allow master plans to set outer limits on a site that would remain applicable over the term of the plan without the manufacturer having to have each subsequent site addition or deletion undergo another gauntlet of approvals from a myriad of agencies.
The bill proposes that once a master plan is approved, a manufacturer need not seek further local approval for future expansions or modifications, "except for building codes, and life or safety issues," said Boyd.
The proposed law also calls for a coordinated permitting process, overseen by several state agencies, for manufacturers located in local jurisdictions that have adopted a manufacturing enterprise program.
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"Participation in the program will be voluntary at the county level, but the DEO (Florida Department of Economic Opportunity) will be required to develop and maintain a register of counties that have adopted a model ordinance which approves a manufacturing master plan that affords flexibility to continue to grow within that plan," said Galvano.
"It's an important piece of my legislative agenda, " said Boyd, "since we have lost our competitive edge nationally and the bill will create a more favorable manufacturing environment while protecting natural resources and quality of life."
Boyd says the bill would shorten the time-frame during which state agencies need to act on manufacturing investment proposals and permitting "to within 90 days, as opposed to the year or even 18 months they now require in some instances."
Local governments that enact the appropriate coordinating ordinances will be identified in materials to be maintained and distributed by DEO as a means of local government self-identification that can be used by Enterprise Florida when pitching Florida sites to manufacturers.
In essence, the law will create some level of competition among counties for new manufacturing facilities.
When asked if DEO was on board with the identical bills, filed as HB 357 and SB 582, Boyd and Galvano both indicated expectations of support.
"DEO is supportive of the end goal to promote manufacturing in the state and to expedite state permitting, and to the best of my knowledge we have their support" said Galvano.
One person who is "very excited about the bill" is Rheb Harbison, a senior governmental consultant with the Carlton Fields law firm in Tallahassee. Harbison, a member of the Associated Industries of Florida's "Lobby Team," provided materials that indicate the "DEO believes that the Act will not significantly increase its workload and that it will have no fiscal impact."
However, in an email response to an interview request, DEO deputy chief communications officer James Miller noted that since "the bills are new and DEO is still in the early stages of understanding their proposed impact, we won't be able to comment much at all."
According to Galvano, Boyd and Harbison, Tropicana Products,Inc., a major Bradenton employer and manufacturer, was a catalyst behind the drive for the bill.
In 2011, Tropicana built a new $4 million bottling facility for clear containers for their recently-introduced Trop 50 products, which tout 50 percent less sugar and calories and no artificial sweetners.
Calls to Tropicana were not returned by press time.
In the Boyd-Galvano proposal, both newcomers, as well as existing manufacturers, like Tropicana, would benefit from the streamlining of the approval process their bill aims to achieve.
When asked about the bill's origins, Sen. Galvano said that he had "been in contact with both Steve Lezman at Tropicana, and Rheb Harbison at Carlton Fields."
Lezman is the Bradenton-based director of governmental affairs for Tropicana, and Harbison. with Carlton Fields.
As the Bradenton Herald reported in 2012, Tropicana Manufacturing Co. Inc. filed a new master site plan with Manatee County designed to streamline redevelopment of the entire 186-acre campus, including about 1.67 million square feet of additional building space.
Tropicana had asked the county for a complete re-examination of its headquarters at 850 13th Ave. E. in Bradenton, with a master plan application submitted late last year.
The broad changes would allow the company to forego another regulatory site plan every time it wants to redevelop or add a new building, instead only needing to acquire the necessary permits -- a much speedier process, that seems to mirror the goals of the proposed Boyd-Galvano legislation.