Also OKs Baptist hospital tower
“I have a problem. Can you fix it?”
That query, made about a year ago, set in motion events that led to the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission approving a plan Thursday to help Eurofins Scientific Inc., a global biotech firm, develop a laboratory in Jacksonville.
The question was from Harry Frisch, chairman of Beaver Street Fisheries Inc., and the recipient was Florida State College at Jacksonville. Frisch wanted a local source for testing fresh and frozen seafood products so he wouldn’t have to send the samples to Metairie, La., where a company called Eurofins analyzed the products for safety and sent the results to Jacksonville.
“That takes time. Time is money and there’s also a spoilage issue,” said FSCJ General Counsel and Vice President of Strategic Initiatives Jeanne Miller.
The commission approved a Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund package for Eurofins to create 12 jobs by 2012 with an average annual salary of $45,570, not including benefits, which is 115 percent of the state average wage.
The private capital investment to purchase the machinery, equipment, furniture and fixtures to equip the laboratory is estimated to be $550,000.
The QTI refund, $8,500 per job, provides a financial incentive for Eurofins to partner with FSCJ to create a microbiology laboratory at the college’s Downtown campus. Eighty percent of the refund, $81,600, will be paid by the state with the City providing the balance, $20,400, after the jobs are in place.
In addition, FSCJ is investing more than $500,000 to renovate space at its Institute for Food Safety, where the laboratory will be located. The laboratory and its processes will become part of the curriculum, said Miller.
“What a wonderful experience for students”, she said, adding that FSJC recently secured an $850,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to fund scholarships for students to study in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“FSCJ is in business to develop a qualified workforce,” said Miller.
She also said Eurofins is excited about Jacksonville’s port and its annual volume of food shipments. Eurofins is based in Nantes, France.
“They see tremendous opportunity and we hope their success will benefit our students,” said Miller.
The QTI proposal will be sent to City Council for its approval.
JEDC also approved a development agreement for an 11-story, $200 million hospital tower at Baptist Health’s Southbank campus. The concept for the project was approved in 2008 by JEDC’s Downtown Development Review Board, which will consider final approval at its meeting later this month.
Baptist’s part of the agreement includes streetscape improvements and reducing traffic congestion in the area by encouraging employees to use peripheral parking sites.
Baptist is leasing spaces at the Jacksonville Transportation Authority’s Kings Avenue parking garage for 200 employees who will work in the tower. Also, the on-campus parking garage on Palm Street will be remodeled to reduce traffic congestion and employee works shifts will be scheduled to avoid high traffic during peak hours.
“We appreciate Baptist’s commitment to Jacksonville and what a good corporate citizen they have been for years,” said JEDC Chair Zimmermann Boulos.
JEDC Executive Director Ron Barton put the project into financial perspective. “It’s great to have a significant construction project at a time when the economy needs it,” he said.