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GE Measurement & Control Vice President of Global Supply Chain Julie DeWane (at podium) Friday morning announced the company is creating a new facility at Cecil Commerce Center. She was joined by Gov. Rick Scott, Mayor Alvin Brown and other officials.
Jax Daily Record Friday, Sep. 26, 201412:00 PM EST

'Jacksonville was a clear choice' for GE Oil & Gas 500-job manufacturing plant

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GE Oil & Gas will set up a 500-job manufacturing plant at Cecil Commerce Center in November, company, state and city officials announced Friday morning, confirming the identity of the confidential “Project Speed.”

The $50 million plant, which will expand over time, will produce Becker control valves and Mooney regulators used in the industry. Manufacturing should begin by the end of the first quarter, according to JAX Chamber.

The company will lease a 510,000-square-foot facility due for completion in late October at AllianceFlorida at Cecil Commerce Center.

GE Oil & Gas will move 35 employees to the facility by year-end and ramp up to 500 by the end of 2016. The average wage will be $48,850, creating an eventual $24 million annual payroll, according to an incentives agreement approved by City Council this month.

The announcement was made at the JAX Chamber headquarters Downtown. On hand were Gov. Rick Scott, Mayor Alvin Brown, U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, City Council President Clay Yarborough, other council members and JAX Chamber executives.

“It’s 500 families that their life is going to be different,” Scott said.

The city and state approved $15.4 million in incentives for the confidential project. The city is responsible for $10 million and the state for the remaining $5.4 million. Council approved the city’s incentives Sept. 9.

“Jacksonville was a clear choice,” said Julie DeWane, vice president of Global Supply Chain at GE Measurement & Control.

“This is major win for the city,” Brown said. The city said it was the largest economic development project in the city in six years, since Deutsche Bank came to town in 2008, pledging an initial 1,000 jobs.

Trying to keep it quiet

GE Oil & Gas has been advertising for jobs for a Jacksonville manufacturing plant since at least mid-August, but economic-development officials kept the identity confidential under Florida law and had not commented about GE Oil & Gas until Friday morning.

Project Speed came to light Aug. 6, when city and chamber officials said an unidentified Fortune 500 company wanted to build a large advanced manufacturing plant in Jacksonville, creating 500 jobs and investing up to $91 million in capital investments in exchange for $15.4 million in taxpayer incentives.

Paul Crawford, with the city Office of Economic Development, said then that the company would select Jacksonville if the incentives deal was approved.

The city’s $10 million in incentives comprise a $6.5 million REV grant, a $3 million Economic Development Manufacturing Employer Grant and a $500,000 Qualified Target Industry tax refund.

The city’s new Economic Development Manufacturing Employer Grant will pay out $400 per employee, per year for 15 years for the deal. It’s worth $3 million and was referred to as a “bonus” to the typical QTI grant for workforce creation.

The state’s $5.4 million incentives consist of a $2 million QTI refund, a $2.5 million Quick Action Closing Fund and a $900,000 Quick Response Training grant.

The probability that Project Speed was GE Oil & Gas sharpened when city and chamber economic-development recruiters wouldn’t comment on the company’s job postings that clearly outlined the giant energy company intended to move a plant to Jacksonville.

For example, a job opportunity found Thursday, which was posted 44 days ago and is no longer accepting applications, sought a facilities manager for GE Oil & Gas in Jacksonville to “hold a key leadership role in establishing a new Flow & Process Technologies Facility.”

Other postings in August referred to a new facility and a factory relocation from Elk Grove Village, Ill.

DeWane said the manufacturing functions for the Becker and Mooney lines would be relocated from Elk Grove Village and Salt Lake City, respectively.

She said she expected 100 people to be hired within the first 12 months. She said the Elk Grove Village and Salt Lake City plants “are going to cease operations” as the jobs are transferred.

The plant also will make other oil and gas industry products.

DeWane said the company will work with colleges, universities, high schools and veterans’ groups in its hiring process. She encouraged people interested to check jobs.gecareers.com, where jobs are posted. Use keyword Jacksonville for a list of local job opportunities.

Beating the competition

Friday’s announcement has been expected since Sept. 5, when city Office of Economic Development CEO Ted Carter sent an email to council members and others saying the identity of Project Speed was expected within a few weeks.

He said over the past five months, his office has been working with the JAXUSA Partnership of the JAX Chamber and Enterprise Florida to secure a Fortune 500 company that wanted to establish an advanced manufacturing operation in the southeastern United States.

He said Jacksonville competed with about 12 jurisdictions and had been eliminated during one round of negotiations. It then made short-list status and was chosen by “closing a $15M differential between Jacksonville and the #1 ranked site.”

The company chose Jacksonville because of its labor pool, quality of life, tax structure and JaxPort, which will be used by the company, he said.

“This is a project we won because we refused to take no for an answer,” said Dr. Bill Rupp, CEO of Mayo Clinic Florida and chair of the JAX Chamber.

Jerry Mallot, president of the JAXUSA Partnership economic-development division of the chamber, said GE Oil & Gas had considered 48 states and several countries for the plant before narrowing the list.

U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw noted the team effort among the governor, mayor and city, state and business recruiters.

“It’s pretty competitive out there. We all know that,” he said.

City Council President Clay Yarborough said the plant “will serve to strongly encourage other companies” to consider Jacksonville.

Further easing the deal, the project’s need for 500,000 to 1 million square feet of space fits well at AllianceFlorida at Cecil Commerce Center.

Hillwood Investment Properties, the master developer of the city-owned West Jacksonville business park, is building a speculative 510,433-square-foot tilt panel warehouse at 12970 Normandy Blvd. in the park that can be expanded to 1 million square feet.

The project is expected to ultimately include more than $89 million in real estate construction and improvements and expenditures on manufacturing equipment, Carter said in the email.

The initial minimum $50 million investment will pay for manufacturing and IT equipment as well as additional real estate improvements, according to a city news release.

Rupp also credited the CBRE commercial real estate firm for assisting the deal. Brent Woodruff and Lisa Harber with the CBRE Global Corporate Services Group in Atlanta office represent GE and CBRE First Vice President Terry Quarterman represents Hillwood.

“It was a great job by a whole bunch of people and everybody did a great job,” said Tripp Gulliford, managing director of the Jacksonville office.

“It has the opportunity to be a catalytic event. It could lead to a lot more,” he said.

Another step toward “Project Speed” took place Thursday when a building-permit application was filed with the city for a “privileged and confidential” tenant at Cecil Commerce Center.

The Conlan Co. construction services firm filed plans for a building permit to renovate 100,000 square feet of space in a new 510,000-square-foot Cecil Commerce Center building at 12970 Normandy Blvd.

No tenant was specified. The project name is referred to under project identification as “Alpha Build – SLC.”

The work is to build three partition walls and install warehouse lighting within the build-out section. Drawings were issued Monday, according to the plans.

GE Oil & Gas is a big deal

GE Oil & Gas is part of General Electric Co., which is not just Fortune 500. It’s Fortune 10.

GE ranked No. 9 on the 2014 Fortune 500 list with revenue of $146.2 billion.

Landing a GE Oil & Gas factory is considered a major event, especially in light of the city and state’s focus on attracting advanced manufacturing jobs.

GE Oil & Gas is a global leader in advanced technology equipment and services for all segments of the oil and gas industry. It also is the fastest-growing business unit of GE, DeWane said.

It supplies equipment used from drilling through production, liquefied natural gas and pipeline compression, pipeline inspection, and downstream processing in refineries and petrochemical plants.

GE Oil & Gas has 43,000 employees in more than 100 countries.

General Electric Co., based in Fairfield, Conn., traces its beginnings to Thomas A. Edison, who established Edison Electric Light Co. in 1878.

GE’s annual Securities and Exchange Commission report for 2013 states the company is one of the largest and most diversified infrastructure and financial services corporations in the world.

Its products and services range from aircraft engines, power generation, oil and gas production equipment and household appliances to medical imaging, business and consumer financing and industrial products.

GE serves customers in more than 100 countries and employs about 307,000 people worldwide.

The report says manufacturing operations are carried out in about 237 plants in 38 states in the United States and Puerto Rico and at 305 plants in 40 other countries.

It’s no stranger to Jacksonville, either. GE Engine Services bought Jacksonville-based Unison Industries in 2002. It employs more than 500 people.

Unison, founded in 1980, designs and manufactures electrical components, sensors, and systems for aircraft, industrial, marine, military, and space uses. Jacksonville is its global headquarters.

[email protected]

@MathisKb

(904) 356-2466

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