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Proposed Cecil Commerce Center Distribution Center Could Bring 1,200 More Jobs to the Region

Proposed Cecil Commerce Center Distribution Center Could Bring 1,200 More Jobs to the Region

A proposed distribution center for Jacksonville’s Cecil Commerce Center would be the latest in a string of recent successes for the city as it develops land at the former naval air station.

Read Full Article Here  By Drew Dixon & G. Chambers Williams III Thu, Sep 22, 2016

Dubbed “Project Velo,” the facility is proposed to require construction of a 1 million-square-foot building that would house a distribution center, with the possibility of up to 1,200 new jobs by the end of 2019, according to a summary by the city’s Office of Economic Development. But the unnamed company has not yet committed to the Jacksonville site, and is still looking at other locations, the city said.

“Project Velo is currently performing due diligence on numerous sites around the nation that appear to be suitable to serve as a distribution hub for its diverse array of products,” said the summary memo.

The company is expected to make a decision where it would locate the center later this year.

Since the city entered into a contract in 2010 with Dallas-based Hillwood Investment Properties for commercial development of 4,475 acres of the 17,224-acre site, companies such as GE Oil & Gas, Bridge-stone Tire, Saft Battery and FedEx Ground have set up shop, bringing more than 1,200 jobs, said City Councilman Doyle Carter, who represents the district that includes Cecil Airport.

With site work for a 400,000-square-foot spec building by Ross Perot Jr.’s Hillwood now under way for a yet-to-be-determined tenant, and the prospect of the new distribution center on a separate 86-acre tract along 103rd Street, “development is getting better at the site,” Carter said.

Under terms of the city’s contract with Hillwood, the company must have at least the new 400,000 square-foot addition completed by September 2017. Despite a slow start that earlier had frustrated Carter and other city officials, the progress in the past three or four years has been “encouraging,” Carter said.

“They have started moving dirt,” he said of the spec building site. “I met with them this week. Usually when they build a spec building, someone will come along before it’s even finished. But it’s not all woods out there anymore. It’s been really good the past few years, and the airport’s doing great, too. These projects are bringing in a lot of jobs, and helping the economy all through the area, too.”

‘MORE THAN AN AMAZON OPERATION’

The newest prospect, which would be the biggest tenant so far in the Cecil Commerce Center, could rival the recently announced Amazon.com deal for the Northside, according to city documents. Those documents say that the new facility would initially create 325 jobs with an average salary of $50,000 a year.

“Sounds like this is more than an Amazon operation, given the salary scales,” said Sujit Canagaretna, senior fiscal analyst for the Council of State Governments’ Southern office in Atlanta. “The $50,000 mark indicates that the project involves more than a simple distribution operation. In general, the Amazon distribution centers pay about $13.50 per hour.” A $13.50 hourly wage equates to about $28,000 a year.

Canagaretna, who closely follows industrial development in the South for the council, said he wasn’t aware of the project mentioned for Jacksonville. A city memo said only, “The company is one of the leaders in the product distribution marketplace.”

City officials said the company’s payroll would add about $39 million annually to the Jacksonville economy.

The land, which is currently mostly wooded, is owned by the city, and if it is sold to Hillwood for the distribution center, it would go for $8,819 per acre, or a total of $758,000, the memo said.

In total, the company would likely have to provide a capital investment of about $115 million for equipment, furniture, land and real estate improvements, and in return, would receive a package of local and state financial incentives that would be based on creation of the initial 325 jobs.

‘COMMITMENT OF CITY SUPPORT’

Mayor Lenny Curry has proposed a resolution for consideration by the City Council that would provide a “commitment of city support in an amount not to exceed $195,000” in tax incentives in hopes of attracting the business to Jacksonville. That would be matched by $780,000 from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the proposed resolution said.

The city would also provide $6.7 million in a “Recapture Enhanced Value” grant and another $200,000 grant to provide training for workers. The state would provide a $420,000 training grant.

The resolution is expected to be introduced to the full City Council at Tuesday’s regular meeting. The proposal would still be subject to public hearings and a possible final vote by the City Council in October.

MEMO TOUTS PROJECT’S BENEFITS

The process for Project Velo is similar to what happened in the courting of Amazon, which was originally dubbed Project Rex by city officials.

The internet retail giant closed a deal to build a distribution center here in July after being courted by the city for years. Amazon is already in the process of constructing an 800,000-square-foot distribution center on a 170-acre site on International Airport Boulevard and Pecan Park Road, just north of Interstate 295. That facility will employ 1,500 people at the distribution center by the time it is operational by the end of 2017.

City Economic Development Office analysts are touting the benefits of Project Velo to Jacksonville.

“The project location will make jobs accessible to residents in some of Jacksonville’s high unemployment areas. … Project Velo will also help further the city’s goal of making Alliance Florida at Cecil Commerce Center one of the premier job centers and industrial parks in the Southeastern U.S.,” the memo said.

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