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Jax Daily Record Monday, May 21, 201804:35 PM EST

Saft America Inc. may get more time to create required jobs

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Amendment to its incentives deal with give lithium-ion battery manufacturer another 18 months to create 279 jobs.
by: David Cawton Staff Writer

Saft America Inc. could have more time to create the jobs it promised the city in a 2009 economic development agreement.

Executive Director Kirk Wendland of the city Office of Economic Development introduced an amendment to the deal Wednesday at the Mayor’s Budget Review Committee providing the lithium-ion battery manufacturer another 18 months to create 279 jobs.

The extension comes after the company missed that job target at year-end 2017.

Wendland told the committee Saft exceeded 279 employees in 2015 but had trouble maintaining those jobs.

“They lost a couple of contracts during the 2016 period and had a reduction in headcount,” he said. “They’re working on building back that workforce.”

Saft America, a subsidiary of Paris-based Saft Groupe S.A., opened a 235,000-square-foot building in September 2011 on 12 acres at 13575 Waterworks St. in Cecil Commerce Center.

The agreement violation could have cost the company $326,164, according to a letter Wendland sent Feb. 23 to Saft Financial Controller Mohamed Tejan.

Those funds are tied to incentives negotiated by the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission, which the city split into the OED and the Downtown Investment Authority in 2012.  

According to the economic development agreement, the company was awarded a Countywide Economic Development Fund Site Work Grant worth up to $1 million as part of a $5.3 million city-backed taxpayer incentives package.

It also received $14.9 million in state-backed incentives and up to $95.5 million in federal stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for building its facility.

The city’s package included a $3.3 million Recaptured Enhanced Value Grant, a 20 percent share of the $2.37 million Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund grant of $474,300, and the Countywide Economic Development Fund Site Work Grant worth up to $1 million.

The city also provided a $550,000 Public Service Tax Exemption.

The city agreed to pay Saft $700,000 of the site work grant upfront to help the company cover its initial build-out of the facility in anticipation of hitting the job numbers by the deadlines outlined in the economic development agreement.

Saft promised to invest more than $122 million in the facility to build lithium-ion batteries for wind- and solar-based power generation plants and hire the 279 employees at a full-time average salary of $44,807.

Wendland said the amendment gives the company until year-end 2019 to create the jobs; allows OED to measure the average number of jobs between 2018 and 2019 against the 279-job requirement; and reduces this year’s REV grant incentive by $25,000 – a financial penalty for the extension.

City Council and Mayor Lenny Curry need to approve the changes before they take effect.

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