Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Columbia County

County Encouraging Low Paying Jobs
Offers $414,000 Bonanza for 32 of Them 

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – In 2012, Columbia County's newly hired Economic Development Director, Jessie Quillen, told the County 5 appointed Economic Development Advisory Board (EDAB) that he wanted to bring high paying – high value jobs to Columbia Country. He was shot down by Commissioner Ronald Williams and the rest of the EDAB. They didn't want to advertise to the world the high-value-high-pay part. Tonight the County 5 will vote on giving a $1,149,000 cash incentive for 32 non living wage jobs. After two years, Quillen finally quit.

Economic Development Agreement*

Yesterday afternoon, the EDAB, a County Commission (County 5 or The 5) appointed board met to discuss a project that will bring 32 (down from 60) low paying, non living wage jobs to Ellisville. Nobody would mention Ellisville, a quiet, rural farming community.

All indications are that the operation is a Pilot type travel center-truck stop.

At yesterday's meeting, the County's Economic Development Director, Glenn Hunter, mentioned the project highlights to the EDAB, and then had to repeat himself when the County/EDAB Attorney arrived. It wasn't clear why they began the meeting without him.

Mr. Hunter reviewed the following:

• The agreement was sent to the client. They sent back some changes.

• The capital improvement for the project has been reduced to 8.5 million dollars. (There was no mention of the value of the original proposal)

• Jobs will be reduced from 60 to 32 full time; 23 part time.

• Wages will be around $9.65 an hour.

City Manager Wendell Johnson asked, "Is this going to be a straight cash incentive?"

County/EDBA attorney Joel Foreman said, "This is a straight 125.045 cash incentive."

Translated into English, Mr. Foreman's answer was "Yes."

Mr. Johnson asked for the source of the incentives.

Mr. Hunter answered, "My understanding is that it's out of Economic Development Reserves."

It wasn't clear why he didn't know for sure and nobody asked.

Mr. Hunter explained that the taxes on the undisclosed property will be $68,000 – 70,000 thousand a year.

A $414,000 Columbia County Cash Bonanza

Assuming the taxes are $70,000 per year, or $700,000 after 10 years, the company will reap a $414,000 Columbia County cash bonanza for not agreeing to pay a living wage.

A Revenue/Tax Generator for the County

Mr. Foreman explained, "This is not a jobs type program. This is a revenue generator for the County in terms of various tax bases they would impact."

EDAB member Glenn Owens, referring to the State policy of paying 115% of the prevailing wage in order to get certain incentives, asked, "Don’t we have to reach the thing about 115%?"

Commissioner DePratter answered, "That’s only with state incentives."

Commenting on the pay of the company, Mr. Hunter said, "That’s the model they follow."

The Company – the Pay – A Living Wage

According to the proposed agreement between the County 5 and the company, the pay is not $9.65 an hour as mentioned during the EDAB meeting. The agreement states, "The average hourly wage of the employees must be no less than $9.25 per hour."

It is estimated that in Columbia County, a living wage for one adult is $9.88 an hour. For a single parent with one child that jumps to $21.62 hr.

A Living Wage Calculator for Columbia County can be found here.


Tonight, the Columbia County 5 will vote on the incentive.

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