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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Jan. 4, 201805:48 PM EST

Project Volt promises 800 jobs; city and state pledge more than $50 million in incentives

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City Council to take up legislation Jan. 9 for plant that would start operations by year-end 2019.
by: David Cawton Staff Writer

An unnamed company described only as an international manufacturer of solar panels and modules is seeking almost $54 million in local and state incentives to establish a new U.S. headquarters and manufacturing plant in Jacksonville.

The company, called “Project Volt,” promises to create up to 800 jobs and invest up to $410 million at two facilities in North and West Jacksonville, according to legislation to be introduced at City Council on Jan. 9.

According to the economic development agreement between Volt and the city Office of Economic Development, Jacksonville would be responsible for providing up to $24.6 million in incentives, with state programs picking up the rest, at least $29.3 million.

Additional incentives are being determined and one training grant is recurring.

A project summary of the deal says the jobs will be created by the end of 2019 at an average salary of $46,346.

The agreement says Volt would hire 400 jobs by the end of this year and 400 more by year-end 2019.

Renovations and equipment installation would start by June 30 this year with completion of that work by the end of 2019.

Volt claims it would use JaxPort to import and export large volumes, with most of the materials sourced from China, at least in the first few years.

The company would lease space for a manufacturing operation at 4660 New World Ave. in West Jacksonville at Cecil Commerce Center, as well as a second facility in North Jacksonville at 2969 Faye Road to house the company’s solar panel assembly and distribution operations.

The Cecil center is a recently completed 407,435-square-foot speculative building by Hillwood, the master developer at the city-owned commerce center.

The Faye Road is an 815,000-square-foot former Sears center.

Volt states that the investment would be split between real estate improvements at $153 million, with $257 million in new equipment and machinery.

Volt lists the incentives as a “material factor in its decision to locate its new manufacturing operation in Jacksonville as opposed to another location.”

The company is seeking a $4 million Qualified Targeted Industry Tax Refund grant, which accounts for $5,000 for each job the company creates.

The city would be responsible for 20 percent of the payout, or $1,000 per job, while the state is responsible for 80 percent or $4,000 per job. Volt would need to verify the hiring with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity before funds are paid out over a five-year period beginning in 2019.

The city would provide a Recaptured Enhanced Value Grant worth up to 75 percent of the new property taxes created by the expansion over the first 10 years. The REV grant is worth up to $23.8 million.

In addition to the city’s contribution, the state is offering a High Impact Performance Incentive worth up to $5 million, “after they meet specific performance goals before and after the project is completed,” according to the economic development agreement, although those goals are not specifically outlined.

The state also is promising a Capital Investment Tax Credit, which Volt can use over a 20-year period to offset paying Florida state corporate income taxes. According to the project summary, the annual cap is $20.5 million.

To encourage Volt to hire veterans of the U.S. military, the company also can tap into a Veterans Florida Business Training Grant of up to $8,000 per employee, with a cap of $200,000 a year.

In exchange for hiring employees at the Cecil Commerce Center facility, Volt is being offered an Urban Job Tax Credit worth up to $400,000, or $1,000 for each employee.

Volt also is eligible to avoid paying 100 percent of the sales and usage taxes on any equipment or manufacturing machinery it purchases for the two facilities.

The last incentive, which does not have a dollar amount associated with it, is a Florida Flex Training grant. The Flex grant is typically paid out on a per-employee-basis.

According to the project summary, the state will work with Volt to determine how much each employee qualifies for as the project moves forward.

The legislation, Ordinance 2018-001, is being introduced as a “fast track” bill, which is given a two-cycle reading through council and its subcommittees. The designation is typically reserved for economic development agreements in which the company’s identity often is kept secret.

According to Florida law, companies negotiating economic development agreements in the state can keep a business identity private if releasing that information puts the company’s proprietary information at risk.

Volt is described as a leading international manufacturer of solar panels and models, with utilities, commercial and residential customers around the world.

It claims to have eight production facilities outside of the United States. A Jacksonville operation would be the first one in the U.S.

 

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