Florida to spend more than $700 million on Pasco Moffitt cancer complex

“Describing it in economic terms is really staggering,” said Senate President Wilton Simpson.
A rendering shows the proposed H. Lee Moffitt Life Sciences Park in Pasco County.
A rendering shows the proposed H. Lee Moffitt Life Sciences Park in Pasco County. [ H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute ]
Published March 12, 2022

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Legislature is poised to approve more than $706 million for a new H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute campus in Pasco County.

The funding is a major step for the cancer research nonprofit’s plan to build out a 775-acre parcel of land east of the Suncoast Parkway and south of State Road 52.

About $600 million of the state money will be parceled out over three decades to help with the construction of the Moffitt Pasco County life sciences park, which will one day include cancer research and health care facilities, as well as retail, hospitality buildings and other developments. Another $106 million in one-time state funding will go toward building out nearby infrastructure — roads in the area, for example.

Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, who represents parts of Pasco, said the funding will be transformational for the Tampa Bay area and for cancer research. He led the push for the project’s funding in this year’s budget.

“Describing it in economic terms is really staggering,” Simpson said. “In the state of Florida, five-plus years from now, we will have the premier cancer facility anywhere in the country — maybe anywhere in the world.”

Simpson predicted the campus would bring thousands of jobs to the area and result in research that could save tens of thousands of lives every year.

Jamie Wilson, Moffit’s vice president of government relations, said the company plans to double its workforce of nearly 8,000 employees with the addition of the new campus. The organization, which served some 79,000 cancer patients last year, will be able to dramatically expand its treatment capacity, he said.

Every year, cancer kills more Floridians than any other condition besides heart disease, according to the state’s Department of Health. More than 150,000 cases of cancer are reported to the state every year. As Florida’s population grows and ages, those numbers are certain to grow.

The $600 million in state funding for the campus will come in $20 million increments each year for the next 30 years. The Legislature is allowing Moffitt to use that money to secure financing for the park via bonds.

When the project is complete, the overall price tag will be in the billions. Moffitt will pay for much of the funding with its hospital and clinical revenues, Wilson said.

“President Simpson embraced Moffitt’s vision, but then he also was instrumental in expanding that vision,” Wilson said.

Simpson said without the state funding, the project would not have been possible on the scale currently being contemplated.

The 775-acre plot of land Moffitt owns in Pasco is bigger than all of downtown Tampa. The organization bought it in 2018 from the real estate firm Lennar for $23.5 million.

It’s not clear when construction will begin. Moffitt still has to secure some local government permits, Wilson noted.

In addition to the Moffitt center, the Legislature is poised to allocate nearly $38 million in additional money for cancer research in a fund named for first lady Casey DeSantis, who was diagnosed with breast cancer last year.

Related: Florida first lady Casey DeSantis is 'cancer free,' governor announces

Earlier this month, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced his wife is cancer-free.

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