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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Feb. 8, 201805:21 AM EST

The Cawton Report: Officials not offering specifics about Project Volt

Unidentified company seeking more than $50 million in city, state incentives.
by: David Cawton Associate Editor

Two of the state’s top economic development officials were tight-lipped Tuesday on Project Volt, the unnamed company recently awarded nearly $25 million in city-backed financial incentives by the Jacksonville City Council and seeking another $29 million in state incentives.

Appearing with Gov. Rick Scott at a news conference at the Florida Department of Transportation offices in Jacksonville were Enterprise Florida Inc. CEO Pete Antonacci and Cissy Proctor, who leads the state’s Department of Economic Opportunity.

Both declined to offer specifics on the economic development agreement with the unnamed company that was introduced in December.

Neither would confirm the Daily Record’s reporting that the likely company behind Project Volt is JinkoSolar Holding Co. Ltd., a Chinese solar panel manufacturer.

“I’m bound by Florida law,” Antonacci said when asked about the deal. “If I could speak to that particular project I would, but I can’t.”

Antonacci said it’s common for municipalities to approve their share of incentive packages first, but “it just depends again on the incentives and the company.”

When asked about how the state plans to move forward with the incentives promised to Project Volt, Antonacci declined to speak further.

Economic development agreements often use code names, like Project Volt, to shield a business’s identity during negotiations.

State law allows those deals to be crafted outside of public view because releasing information about a company could put it at a competitive disadvantage.

In Project Volt’s case, the total incentive package is unknown, although according to a project summary it could receive at least $54 million in the form of grants, tax breaks and other incentives from the city and state.

When asked if it was appropriate for the state to offer at least $29 million to a company declining to disclose its identity, Proctor said it was part of the process.

“If we want companies to locate here, to relocate here, to grow here, we have to stay competitive,” she said.

In exchange for the incentives, Project Volt plans to lease  manufacturing and distribution facilities in North and West Jacksonville, hire 800 employees and invest at least $410 million.

Council members unanimously approved the city’s share of the incentives Jan. 23.

New road for Cecil Commerce Center

Gov. Rick Scott and economic development leaders were in Jacksonville on Tuesday to announce $35 million in Florida Job Growth Grant Fund awards to nine Florida projects, including a $6 million to construct a 1.5-mile access road at Cecil Commerce Center in West Jacksonville.

The estimated $12.4 million project will provide access to more than 600 acres of “mega site” public land the city is marketing to companies. The property is currently inaccessible by car.

Proctor said the state narrowed the awards after receiving 225 applications for $821 million in projects.

The $85 million Florida Job Growth Grant Fund was established through legislation last year to fund workforce training and infrastructure needs throughout the state.

Antonacci said the rest of the money should be allocated before the end of the fiscal year.

Will any other Jacksonville projects be announced? “Perhaps,” Antonacci said.

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