Locations across the country have made renewable energy central to their economic recovery strategies. The race is on to claim a leadership position in solar, wind, geothermal and biofuel generation and manufacturing.
At a time when tightening credit markets are limiting dollars for economic development, one Florida county has responded with a $25 million cash incentive fund that can provide significant capital for expansion and relocation. Lee County, situated in the heart of Southwest Florida, has launched the FIRST (Financial Incentives for Recruiting Strategic Targets) Initiative as a negotiated, performance-based incentive to attract and grow high-value business projects. The FIRST Initiative focuses on companies that: • Operate within a target industry or high-impact sector as designated by Florida law; • Create at least 75 new full-time equivalent jobs within a three-year period, paying an average wage of at least 125 percent of the Lee County annual average; and, • Make a cumulative capital investment in an amount equal to or greater than the award amount. The Initiative is managed by the Lee County Economic Development Office (EDO), which guides businesses through the application process, evaluates proposed projects and reports recommendations to the board of county commissioners. The board makes final decisions on all incentive applications. “In today’s economy, it is rare for a local government to have the capability of offering cash incentives such as the FIRST Initiative,” said James W. Moore, director of the Lee County EDO. “Through prudent planning and conservative financial management, county leaders have positioned our community to have a strong competitive advantage in the recruitment of high-value employers.” Initiative grants will be performance-based, with incentive payments based on hiring, wage and capital investment criteria. Target industries include life sciences, aviation, shared services, information technology and manufacturing. The FIRST Initiative is among several local and state incentive programs offered through the EDO. Other opportunities include: * Lee County Job Opportunity Program, a cash incentive of up to $2,000 for creation of permanent full-time jobs, with additional payments for job creation within the Lee County Enterprise Zone; * Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund (QTI), a state tax refund designed to support creation of high-wage jobs in targeted high value-added industries; and, * Enterprise Zone Incentives, state tax refunds and credits paired with a local job incentive to spur capital investment and job creation in the Lee County Enterprise Zone. For more information, contact the EDO at (800) 330-3161 or visit www.LeeCountyBusiness.com .
Piper Aircraft Decides to Stay and Expand in Vero BeachA highly competitive, two-year site selection process ended favorably for Florida when Piper Aircraft announced in May that it would keep its headquarters in Vero Beach and significantly expand its manufacturing facilities at the Florida location. A $32-million incentive package that was included in an agreement between the company, the state and Indian River County sealed the deal, according to officials. The retention of the aircraft manufacturing facility keeps more than 900 jobs in Vero Beach, to which an additional 453 will be added by 2012. "Piper Aircraft's continued presence will mean thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in wages, economic development and other contributions for Indian River County, surrounding communities and our state," says Governor Charlie Crist. "Florida is continuing to attract cutting-edge, technology-based companies, like Piper, that expand our state's innovation economy," he adds. Piper Aircraft conducted an extensive site search and looked closely at Oklahoma City, OK and Albuquerque, NM, before reaching its decision to remain in Vero Beach. According to reports, the $32-million incentive package for Piper is tied to a commitment from the company to retain a workforce of at least 1,417 through 2015. The incentive package will help Piper make capital investments in facilities, technology, equipment and tooling. During the negotiations with Piper, county commissioners initially planned to have the incentive package approved in a referendum, but they opted not to go forward with the ballot initiative. Most of the new jobs at Piper will be generated in the run-up to production of the company's new ultralight PiperJet in Vero Beach. Piper currently has about 160 certified aircraft models, an estimated 90,000 of which are still flying. Overall, the company's operations are expected to generate a $518-million impact on the local economy. Piper Aircraft president and CEO Jim Bass, who joined Gov. Crist at the announcement of the deal in May, characterized the agreement as more than a "vote of confidence" in the company's longtime home of Vero Beach. "Our decision also is a commitment by Piper to Indian River County and the State of Florida," he said. Partners in the expansion project include Enterprise Florida, the City of Vero Beach and Indian River County.
High-tech Firms Moving into South FloridaThree international technology companies-BlackBerry maker Research in Motion, cell phone manufacturer FoxConn International Holdings, and General Dynamics C4 Systems, a communications and information systems firm-recently committed to locate new facilities in South Florida, bringing more than 400 high-paying jobs with them. According to economic development officials of the Broward Alliance, the influx of high-tech players ironically was fueled by recent layoffs at Motorola Inc.'s operations in Plantation, FL. The cutbacks at Motorola created a ready pool of trained technical workers, the officials said. Canadian-based Research In Motion reportedly is looking at locations in Fort Lauderdale for a new research and development center that eventually may employ about 500 people. In Sunrise, FL, Hong Kong-based FoxConn opened its 42,000-square-foot Sunrise Center in June, a facility which will focus on design and development of smartphones. Scottsdale, AZ-based General Dynamics C4 also opened a new facility in Sunrise, a 20,000-square-foot complex that will focus on tactical-networking and next-generation communications programs for the U.S. Department of Defense. Quality of life and proximity to universities were key factors in General Dynamics' site selection. The FoxConn facility employs 200 people; the General Dynamics C4 complex expects its staff to grow to more than 100.