The Cawton Report: Project Volt clears committee hurdle
The council Finance Committee approved the deal that involves city-backed financial incentives of nearly $25 million in exchange for 800 new jobs in North and West Jacksonville.
According to the economic development agreement being negotiated between the unnamed company and the city Office of Economic Development, the state would provide an additional $29.3 million worth of grants, incentives and tax credit programs for the project.
Volt, described as an international manufacturer of solar panels, wants to establish a U.S. headquarters in Jacksonville.
The city, state and JAX Chamber are not revealing the company’s name, as state law allows companies to protect proprietary information that could put them at a competitive disadvantage when negotiating economic development deals.
The Daily Record has reported that Shanghai-based JinkoSolar Holding Corp. fits the profile of the company.
Volt plans to invest up to $410 million into two facilities it plans to lease — a manufacturing operation at Cecil Commerce Center in West Jacksonville, and a solar panel assembly and distribution plant in North Jacksonville at 2969 Faye Road.
To receive the financial incentives, Volt agreed to hire up to 400 employees by the end of 2018, with another 400 planned for the end of 2019 at an average salary of $45,562.
The city is approving only the local portion of the incentives through Resolution 2018-01 filed Jan. 4.
Those include a 20 percent stake in a $4 million Qualified Targeted Industry Tax Refund grant worth up to $800,000 and a Recaptured Enhanced Value grant worth up to $23.8 million over 10 years.
At the Mayor’s Budget Review Committee meeting Jan. 9, Office of Economic Development Executive Director Kirk Wendland said the company was having internal discussions about increasing the job count to 1,000 because of its concerns over hitting a benchmark with the state’s incentive package.
On Wednesday, Wendland said the company was comfortable with keeping the job number at 800.
He said in the first year of operations, Volt could bring 100 to 150 current employees to Jacksonville.
Those positions would eventually be filled with local workers.
Council Vice President Aaron Bowman, visiting the Finance Committee, said this was the “most fast and furious” deal that has come together for Jacksonville.
“This started the day after the Florida-Georgia game,” Bowman said. “They toured two buildings on an early Sunday morning.”
Bowman, who also has declined to name the company, said the deal brings jobs to areas that need it most and will encourage similar companies to look at Jacksonville.
He said competing cities still are pushing to land the company.
“I will tell you that we are still under intense competition,” Bowman said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if our competition was watching this meeting right now because they are trying to steal it from us,” he said.