Story: Jackson County Autism Center

The Sponsor

Jackson County has led the drive for an autism center since 2019 when it began evaluating a 1,200-acre redevelopment site that had once been home to the Dozier School for Boys—a shuttered, state-operated reform school with a deeply troubled history of abuse. Dozier was the inspiration for Colvin Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “The Nickel Boys.”

The Project

Broadstreet committed $5 million of LISC’s New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) allocation, with Truist Bank as the investor, to support development of a new autism center on the Florida panhandle that will offer a two-year residential program focused on job and life skills for people on the autism spectrum.

Jackson County Autism Center is the first piece of the county’s multi-faceted revitalization plan for the site, now called Endeavor Park. It will include mixed-income residential development, retail, industrial and public services and contribute to the region’s ongoing recovery from a devastating 2018 hurricane. It will further the county’s efforts to attract employers and development activity that positively impact high rates of poverty in the 50,000-resident region.

Broadstreet is leveraging its NMTC allocation to provide patient, flexible capital to Jackson County to cover construction costs for the renovation, so that the county can dedicate more grant funding to the initial operation of the new school. The financing also supports the county’s plan for hiring people of color and women as part of the project, as well as providing accessible jobs.

Impact Statistics

  • $5 M Broadstreet NMTC Allocation
  • 6 Projected Permanent Jobs Created

The Impact

Called Next Step at Endeavor Park, the new facility is meant to address several challenges in Jackson County, including a significant gap in services for autistic adults, as well as a shortfall in qualified employees to staff local businesses. It also responds to national data that points to high unemployment among autistic adults; as people on the spectrum turn 18, they often find limited opportunities for post-secondary education, jobs, or meaningful community engagement. The Next Step project addresses that risk with a holistic curriculum on finances, safety, nutrition, health, etiquette, relationships, transportation, and problem-solving, among other things.