‘Project Gator’ clears significant hurdle to bring nearly 100 jobs

BCC tells the manufacturer it will provide tax rebates as part of its economic development grant

By Don Coble don@claytodayonline.com
Posted 11/30/22

CLAY HILL – The prospect of a new manufacturing company coming to the northwest corner of the county has been one of the worst-kept secrets for months.

The Board of County Commissioners took a …

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‘Project Gator’ clears significant hurdle to bring nearly 100 jobs

BCC tells the manufacturer it will provide tax rebates as part of its economic development grant

Posted

CLAY HILL – The prospect of a new manufacturing company coming to the northwest corner of the county has been one of the worst-kept secrets for months.

The Board of County Commissioners took a big step in turning that secret into reality by unanimously agreeing to approve an economic grant that will result in 15 years of tax rebates once materials – in this case, roofing shingles – start coming off the production line.

Commissioner Betsy Condon represents the Clay Hill area. She said during a recent meeting with residents from Middleburg and Clay Hill, there was a lot of talk about the plant.

“There was a rumor about this and there was a lot of excitement,” she said.

Although the company has signed a letter of intent to buy property near U.S. Highway 301 near County Road 18, and 10 miles south of Interstate 10 to build a 690,000-square-foot production plant, commissioners have been coy about identifying it so other counties don’t try to steal the project. The commission decided it was in the county’s best interest to provide the company with a 75% rebate on its property taxes for the first 10 years and a 50% rebate for five years after that.

Since the plant is expected to cost more than $225,000 million, the commission believed it was a good investment.

“We want the folks to know that we can give incentives to companies like this to come settle into Clay County,” commissioner Mike Cella said. “It’s not a free ride. They are still going to be paying quite a bit in terms of ad valorem taxes. Counting jobs, this will start with $4 million in financial impact community, those dollars being spent in communities, and that’s not even counting what they will be paying in terms of tangible personal property taxes. So, in this day and age, that’s just the way it is.”

Clay County officials believed they needed to be creative to lure a major corporation to set up shop here. If completed, the project will be one of the five biggest investments made in the state this year, according to Crawford Powell, President of Clay County Economic Development Corporation.

The company started exploring the 81.2-acre Clay County site in April 2021. The letter of support from the BCC could help construction to begin shortly after the new year.

“The company is projecting to invest over $225,000,000 in their facilities in Clay County,” Powell said. “ In addition to hiring 80-plus full-time employees, we believe these are baseline investment and job numbers. Once the project finalizes their location, we expect construction for Phase 1 to be 16-to-24 months. This may also allow for their Phase 2 construction plans. We expect Phase 3 to follow shortly thereafter. As their business continues to expand, we also anticipate their employee count to grow.”

Cella said the potential windfall far exceeds whatever considerations the county is willing to provide.

“Unfortunately, you can’t just do it because we’re nice folks,” he said. “We need to move industrial businesses into our community. They don’t decide to move into your community unless there’s some incentives. We’re not throwing a million dollars at an Amazon or Wayfair like some of our neighbors to the Northeast have done and continue to do. We just can’t compete with that. This is a good project.”

To qualify for the grant, the company had to meet several specific requirements including an annual wage range, capital investment, jobs above the county’s wage average and location. With an estimated annual salary between $51,502 and $55,333, the company easily qualified, Powell said.

The exact amount of the tax rebates won’t be known until the facility is completed and the full assessed value has been determined by the Clay County Property Appraiser’s office.

The board also approved an economic development grant agreement for Project Buzz, a $25.65 million manufacturing project that’s projected to be built south of the First Coast Expressway in Green Cove Springs.

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