Sunday, April 03, 2016

City, county court 250 aviation jobs: Company is seeking type of facility planned at Lakeland Linder

LAKELAND — The state's corporate recruiting arm wants tithes from the Lakeland and Polk County commissions to entice an unnamed aircraft maintenance company to bring 250 jobs to the city.

Four-fifths of the $750,000 incentive would come from Enterprise Florida. The remaining 20 percent would be split equally between the Lakeland and Polk County governments.

The City Commission will vote on whether to add its $75,000 to the pot Monday. The County Commission will make its decision Tuesday. The incentive, worth $3,000 per new job, is payable over six years.

The jobs would pay at least $46,000 a year, 15 percent better than the current median salary in the county, a condition to qualify for the incentive.

"To be competitive we put these together," Lakeland Business Development Manager Jason Willey said of the incentive.

It's not a guaranteed deal, but companies looking to expand in Florida or relocate from another state like to keep their options open — promised incentives can sweeten the deal, Willey said.

"Project Townsend," the code name assigned to the company by Enterprise Florida, would spend $1.7 million to equip a facility in Lakeland, presumably the planned maintenance, repair and overhaul hangar complex planned at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport.

The initial plans for the proposed hangar facility describe a facility large enough to house commercial airliners for maintenance — Project Townsend's line of work, according to the county's notes on the offer.

Land has already been cleared and wildlife relocated on the proposed hangar site, partly to clear sight lines for the new air traffic control tower there. But city officials have remained mum about the identity of the firm or whether it would lease the proposed hangar.

"They said if they told me they'd have to kill me," City Attorney Tim McCausland told commissioners Friday.

If approved by the commissioners, Project Townsend would be the third such incentive offer approved within a month.

Earlier this month, Lakeland and Polk County's commissions approved local contributions to incentivize two other unnamed companies referred to as Project Smoke and Project Albany.

Lakeland and Polk County agreed to add $12,300 each to a $123,000 incentive for Project Smoke, a food manufacturing company that would add 41 jobs to Lakeland.

Project Albany, a nutrition pharmaceutical manufacturing company was promised $30,000 each from the local governments, part of the state's $300,000 incentive offer for 75 jobs.

Earlier this month, the City Commission also approved a $1.1 million incentive to Colorado Boxed Beef to move its corporate headquarters from Auburndale to Lakeland, bringing 210 jobs to the East Main Street district.

Unlike the incentives to Projects Townsend, Smoke and Albany, the incentive to Colorado Boxed Beef was paid entirely by Lakeland's Community Redevelopment Agency in a program crafted in response to Colorado Boxed Beef's desire to relocate.

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