Two projects could bring 385 jobs to Jacksonville

Projects Empire and Glass seeking city and state incentives to expand manufacturing operations.

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  • | 3:01 p.m. September 21, 2018
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Two proposed code-named projects – Project Empire and Project Glass – could create 385 jobs in North and West Jacksonville. 

Empire is looking at Cecil Commerce Center, according to city documents, which raises the question whether it is the speculated Wayfair Inc. distribution center.

Glass is a smaller company looking at Northwest Jacksonville.

The unidentified companies are seeking city and state incentives to expand their manufacturing operations in Jacksonville.

Together, the companies are seeking $3.435 million in city incentives. 

The city Office of Economic Development will seek permission Monday from the Mayor’s Budget Review Committee to introduce legislation to City Council on Oct. 9.

Project Empire 

Project Empire is described in a legislative summary as a national distributor of an assortment of household goods. 

It is evaluating locating “a substantial warehouse and distribution facility in Jacksonville” to service customers in the Southeast United States, with a capital investment of $72 million. 

The summary states Empire is looking at an 80-acre parcel at AllianceFlorida at Cecil Commerce Center in West Jacksonville as well as sites in Georgia and South Carolina.

Of the $72 million investment, $50 million would go toward real estate development and $22 million would pay for machinery, equipment, furniture and fixtures. It doesn’t state the size of the project.

Empire proposes to create up to 250 full-time jobs no later than year-end 2021 with an average annual wage of $33,000, plus benefits. 

According to the city Office of Economic Development, the positions would generate an annual total payroll of $8.25 million. 

It seeks a Recapture Enhanced Value Grant worth up to 50 percent of the net increase in real and tangible property taxes over 10 years. The grant is triggered after Empire puts at least $40 million into the project, no later than year-end 2020. 

The REV grant is capped at $3.3 million over 10 years. 

Because the average proposed wages do not meet the requirements of the city’s Public Investment Policy, which states that wages must be greater than or equal to 100 percent of the state of Florida average wage, the project seeks a waiver.

It states in a project summary that it will have a “large capital investment, and a positive impact on JAXPORT,” and because it is proposed for Cecil Commerce Center. 

As the master developer of AllianceFlorida, Dallas-based Hillwood plans to purchase the land from the city for $9,517 per acre, for an estimated total of $757,569. Hillwood also reserves the right to prepare the site for any future development. 

The price per acre is based on a formula that considers the amount of land preparation and the cost to build the infrastructure needed to make the site ready for development. 

According to the fact sheet, the site is wooded and will require a large amount of infrastructure, fill material and a city right-of-way closure. 

Hillwood is the master developer at AllianceFlorida at Cecil Commerce Center. Senior Vice President Dan Tatsch said Friday he has not heard the "Project Empire" name for a prospective deal at Cecil.

Project Glass

Project Glass is described in a project summary as an established company that manufactures home improvement products. 

Glass is considering expanding at locations in the Southeastern United States where it can manufacture and distribute products. 

The company states it does not currently operate a manufacturing facility on the East Coast. 

In Northwest Jacksonville,  Glass would lease about 70,000 square feet in an existing building. 

The company proposes to create 135 jobs by the end of 2023 with an average wage of $46,472, generating $6.2 million in annual new payroll, excluding benefits. 

Glass would invest $7 million in manufacturing equipment, furniture, and real estate purchases and improvements. 

The company seeks a Qualified Targeted Industry Tax Refund grant of up to $5,000 per job or $675,000. The city portion of the QTI is 20 percent of the award, or $1,000 per new job up to $135,000 total. The state is responsible for the rest. 

QTI grants are not paid until employees are hired and verified by the Office of Economic Development and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. 

Florida law allows both companies to shield their identities to protect their proprietary information, and to avoid tipping off competitors in their respective industries. It is common for companies to reveal their names after incentives packages are approved by council and Mayor Lenny Curry. 

In some cases, the corporations stay behind the veil of project names for up to a year after an economic development deal has been approved.