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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Jul. 27, 202109:10 PM EST

Council approves $425K grant for Boeing’s Cecil Airport expansion

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Brenda Priestly Jackson’s amendment to request the company hire two-year Duval County residents for 20% of the project jobs fails.
by: Mike Mendenhall Staff Writer

The Jacksonville City Council awarded The Boeing Co. a $425,000 city infrastructure grant July 27 to support the company’s $116.5 million plan to expand its maintenance, repair and operations hangar at Cecil Airport.

The Council voted 16-0 to approve the grant to assist Boeing on an estimated $3 million in infrastructure expenditures for the project over three years.

Those improvements include stormwater drainage installation; fencing; a new sewer extension; irrigation; and electrical lines.

Boeing reached a 25-year lease agreement Dec. 17 with the Jacksonville Aviation Authority to expand its 400,000-square-foot operation at Cecil in West Jacksonville. 

Under the agreement, JAA will build and lease the facilities to Boeing, which comprises about 270,000 square feet of hangar space and more than 100,000 square feet of office and support shop space on 57 acres.

Boeing representatives told the city the eight-bay hangar will create 334 jobs at an average annual salary of $65,000, according to a June 2 memo from city Economic Development Executive Director Kirk Wendland.

The new jobs will be in place by Dec. 31, 2026, at a $21.7 million payroll excluding benefits, according to city documents.

Council member Brenda Priestly Jackson was unable to gain enough support to amend the bill to add a goal that Boeing fill at least 20% of the jobs created with people who have lived in Duval County for at least two years.

A similar amendment failed last week in the Finance and Rules committees, but the version proposed July 27 would not have put Boeing into default of the development agreement if the company failed to report the residency data.

Priestly Jackson voted in favor of the deal after her amendment failed, but she said the city “must stop just willy-nilly giving taxpayer dollars” to companies without more benefits to existing residents.

“We have an obligation to folks who are in Jacksonville now, not folks who we want to bring here,” Priestly Jackson said. 

“I didn’t get elected to watch opportunity go to those who come and not those who are here. We owe them more than that.”

Council member Aaron Bowman, who is JAXUSA Partnership senior vice president of business development, called the reporting acquirement “dangerous” to Jacksonville’s ability to attract companies.

“Companies go where the least resistance is, where the least risk is,” Bowman said. 

“They don’t want extra reporting requirements and they certainly don’t want something to happen that they didn’t collect the data and headlines say Boeing didn’t meet the aspirational goal we put on this.”

Council member Randy DeFoor pushed back on Bowman’s point that the residency requirement could hinder the Boeing deal.

“A Fortune 500 (company) will want to come to a city that cares about their people and wants their people hired — period,” DeFoor said. 

“If we don’t care about our people, most Fortune 500s don’t want to go to a community like that. I can tell you that right now.”

Wendland told the Council before the vote that he didn’t think the amendment would stop Boeing’s expansion at Cecil but worries it could impact future deals.

The terms of the deal state that Boeing’s private capital investment cannot be less than $85 million to qualify for the city incentive.

The city’s public investment policy does not include an infrastructure grant, so the legislation waives the policy rules.

Construction is scheduled to begin in fall 2021 with operations expected to begin in January 2024, according to the JAA release.

Chicago-based Boeing, an international aerospace company, has operated at Cecil for more than 20 years. 

A jetliner manufacturer and space and defense contractor, Boeing provides maintenance, repair and operations and engineering services and training to the U.S. Department of Defense and other customers.

Council members Tommy Hazouri, Ju’Coby Pittman and Garrett Dennis were absent for the vote.

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