Live Oak —
The Suwannee County Board of County Commissioners, along with about 50 citizens from the community, were presented with a presentation recently of the economic impact that “Project Christmas” might have on Suwannee County and the North Florida region.
North Florida Economic Development Partnership Executive Director Jeff Hendry addressed the board, along with the members of the community, emphasizing that impact.
According to Hendry, should the company that is still only referred to as “Project Christmas” select the Suwannee County Catalyst Site to locate, the direct, indirect and induced jobs during the first year would generate over $29 million in wages. Once the project becomes operational within three years that number is expected to increase to nearly $37 million annually.
Hendry emphasized the numbers used in putting together the presentation are most conservative, projecting the expenses high and the revenues low, using real time information.
“We have signed a letter of confidentiality and cannot disclose who ‘Project Christmas’ is,” County Commission Chairman Wesley Wainwright told the audience as the meeting began.
The possibility of a company locating on the catalyst site near the intersection of US 90 West and I-10 has been referred to as “Project Christmas” ever since company officials met with local officials during Christmas of 2010.
Hendry stated the company is a manufacturer of building components and is a regionally targeted industry.
“This is an anchor industry that will draw others,” Hendry elaborated.
Wainwright added that the company produces a quality product and will accept nothing less.
According to Hendry, this is the most highly competitive environment he’s ever seen in attracting a company. However, he added that the state and federal government have committed $12,096,000 for infrastructure at the catalyst site.
“The types of infrastructure include water, wastewater, storm water, transportation improvements that include road and rail and site clearing and prep,” Hendry said.
In addition to the state and federal commitments, Hendry specified the private sector had committed nearly $3 million for electric, $700,000 for natural gas, $214,000 broadband commitment and a $3 million railroad commitment.
The projected expense to Suwannee County for “Project Christmas” would be about $3,340,000, Hendry said. Those expenses include $1.1 million for land acquisition, $2.2 million for land clearing and preparation and $40,000 for storm water.
Hendry reiterated that the 10 year return on Suwannee County’s $3.34 million investment is projected at $879,866,981.
When asked about the likelihood of “Project Christmas” situating at the catalyst site, Hendry stressed that he feels good about those chances.
“They’re in negotiations with other states, but indications are they are zeroing in on our state, Hendry explained. “They have said Suwannee County and the state of Florida have worked with them more than any of the other potential sites that are working with them.”
Hendry lauded the work of Suwannee County Economic Alliance President Dennis Cason, along with everyone else who has invested so much time and effort to attract what he calls an “anchor industry”.
According to Cason, should “Project Christmas” choose to locate here, the company will bring about 15 people to train new hires when they get here, explaining that there will be extensive computer and machine work.
During his presentation, Hendry explained the average worker’s wages in Suwannee County are $25,182 annually. The average for “Project Christmas” employees would be $30,000 annually plus $9,900 in benefits.