TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke at the Hamilton County Courthouse Annex in Jasper Tuesday morning, focusing on infrastructure improvements. He awarded the county $5.4 million for infrastructure improvements.

The governor was joined by Department of Economic Opportunity Secretary Dane Eagle. The governor came out to cheers from those gathered to hear him.

Referring to previous awards given from the Governor’s Job Growth Grant Fund, DeSantis said he never comes empty-handed.

“Isn’t it great to be in a free state? Aren’t you happy?” DeSantis asked at the start of the news conference. “When I come, I usually don’t come empty handed. And for Hamilton County, DeSanta Claus is coming to town.”

DeSantis promised a “big announcement,” then introduced several lawmakers and community leaders who had gathered with him for what became a check presentation for infrastructure development. The governor said the money would be to make an impact on rural communities.

“We are in Florida, we’re very proud of our rural communities, and we work very hard to help our rural communities,” DeSantis said. “Particularly if we can make an impact on things like job training and infrastructure.”

DeSantis said he was still working on going through the line-items for next year’s budget from the legislature, but that the state was doing well on the financial front.

“You know, I tell the folks, let us know how we can be helpful and we’ll do it. That’s one of the reasons we’re here today. I can tell you that if you look statewide at our state, there’s a lot of people living throughout our country that wished they lived in Florida,” DeSantis said. “Because we’re leading, we’re standing up for people’s freedoms, we’re standing up for the rights of parents which is very important and we’re making sure we’re governing the state in a way that’s setting up a foundation to have an even more prosperous future. We will end Fiscal Year 21-22 with the largest budget surplus in the history of the state of Florida.”

The governor said he was awarding over $5 million to the county for use in building manufacturing infrastructure.

“The major announcement today is the governor in Florida has a Job Growth Grant Fund and we’re able to evaluate projects that are proposed by local communities, to help with infrastructure improvements and to help with job training, so today we awarding over $5.4 million to improve public infrastructure and support manufacturing and logistics industry, right her,” DeSantis said. “The project will develop an access road and infrastructure need to build out a proposed development with a logistics park and travel center for future manufacturing operations.”

In his speech in Hamilton County, DeSantis covered a lot of different topics, from inflation to federal government, border security and parental rights regarding educational curriculum. The governor also mentioned that while he’s been reading through the state budget, he decided to greenlight a new construction effort in Hamilton County requested by one of their representatives.

“I haven’t approved the budget as a whole, there is a line item for $880,000 in the budget for Hamilton County to construct a new crossroads volunteer fire department fire station,” DeSantis said. “While I haven’t finished the entire budget, I can say that I have approved the $880,000 for Hamilton County fire station. So, you guys will get that.”

Then DeSantis presented the check to county commissioners and other local leaders, for $5,457,290 and paused for a photo with those gathered.

Representative Robert Charles Brannan spoke next. Brannan thanked the governor for the funding and praised his efforts for going to small counties to provide the funds where it was needed, and fighting for what he believes in. He said the fire station was one of his legislative projects, and congratulated the community for getting the funding approved in the state budget.

The governor said when you have a big surplus, legislative items like the fire station take less of a fight to approve than could be expected. He also poked fun at the $112 billion budget approved by the state legislature, joking that the lower numbers pitched by the House and Senate came out even higher during conference, so he’d be paring it down a bit.

Then DeSantis introduced Secretary Eagle. Eagle thanked the governor for his support of rural communities and praised DeSantis for his use of the grant funds that the $5.4 million for Hamilton came from. Eagle said DeSantis picked Hamilton, with the governor having final decision power on where the funds go. Then he spoke about the economy.

“The last thing I do want to mention is the economy,” Eagle said. “Obviously the governor mentioned inflation and where we’re headed. That’s a threat to our economy, but thanks to him, and his leadership keeping Florida free, we have more workers today and more jobs today than we did pre-pandemic.” DeSantis returned to speak again, thanking Eagle for his “hard work” responding to the needs of the state as Secretary of the DEO. The governor also detailed efforts the state took to assist recent tornado victims in Florida.

As noted by a representative from the Florida Democratic Party, the American Rescue Plan Act provides much of the funding for the grant fund used for the award. ARPA, a key Biden agenda item upon his election as president, provides the bulk of the funds used by the governor’s Job Growth Grant Fund, as outlined by the state budget. $50 million in the governor’s fund came from allocations chosen by the legislature to use from ARPA dollars. An additional $24 million of ARPA funding from the previous year rolled over, giving the FY 2021-2022 grant fund $74 million for Floridian infrastructure programs.