Rural Areas of Opportunity (RAO) are defined as rural communities, or a region composed of rural communities, that have been adversely affected by extraordinary economic events or natural disasters. The Governor by executive order may designate up to three RAOs, which establishes each region as a priority assignment for Rural and Economic Development Initiative (REDI) agencies and allows the Governor to waive criteria of any economic development incentive including, but not limited to: the Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund Program under section 288.106, Florida Statutes (F.S.), the Quick Response Training Program and the Quick Response Training Program for participants in the welfare transition program under section 288.047, F.S., transportation projects under section 339.2821, F.S., the brownfield redevelopment bonus refund under section 288.107, F.S., and the rural job tax credit program under section 212.098, F.S. and section 220.1895, F.S.

Florida's Designated RAOs

  • Northwest Rural Area of Opportunity: Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Liberty, Wakulla, and Washington counties, and the area within the city limits of Freeport and Walton County north of the Choctawhatchee Bay and intercoastal waterway. To learn more about the Northwest RAO region, please contact Opportunity Florida.
  • South Central Rural Area of Opportunity: DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, and Okeechobee counties, and the cities of Pahokee, Belle Glade, and South Bay (Palm Beach County), and Immokalee (Collier County). For more information about the South Central RAO region, please contact Florida's Heartland Regional Economic Development Initiative, Inc.
  • North Central Rural Area of Opportunity: Baker, Bradford, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lafayette, Levy, Madison, Putnam, Suwannee, Taylor, and Union counties. For more information about the North Central RAO region, please contact North Florida Economic Development Partnership.

See also:


  • Chris O'Kelley

    Director, Office of Rural Initiatives
    (850) 717-8506
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