Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news for working families.  An online newspaper

County News

$1,325,000 Econ Dev Incentive On Tap At County 5 Tonight: Minimum Wage Unclear

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Columbia County's infamous County 5 are looking to give away another million dollar plus incentive for what appears to be a gas-rest-stop at Ellisville. The word on the street is that it is another Loves Travel Center, although no one is talking. On Friday, July 15, a skeleton Economic Development Advisory Board (EDAB) met for a meeting that had been rescheduled a couple of times. The only issue of substance approved at that meeting was to recommend an economic development incentive agreement to the County 5. The County's elected Attorney was on vacation.

Econ Dev Chief Looks for a Recommendation

During the meeting, Economic Development Chief, Glenn Hunter explained the incentive package. He said, "What the company has asked as an incentive for the project is $1.325 million. We've been able to negotiate that into ten years at $125,000... At the completion of the project and getting their County CO, we will rebate back to them a one time $75,000."

The Incentive Agreement states the following in relevant part:

3.       ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT INCENTIVES.  So long as the Company is not in default under this Agreement, the County shall provide the Company with the following economic development incentives:
          a.       An annual cash incentive in the amount of ONE HUNDRED TWENTY FIVE THOUSAND and 00/100 Dollars ($125,000.00), for TEN (10) years paid by the County to the Company upon the Company’s acquisition and development of the property described on the attached Exhibit “A” of this Agreement [EXEMPT FS 288.075], said payment made in accordance with the County’s powers set forth in Florida Statutes section 124.045.
          b.       Reimbursement by the County to the Company of all utility tap, connection, or building permit fees otherwise charged by the County in connection with the Project, not to exceed $75,000.00.
          c.       Total cash and reimbursement incentives to the Company shall not exceed $1,325,000.

Board member Simmons ask for a projection of the local sales tax.

Mr. Hunter answered, "Local sales tax is projected to be in the range of $500k to $600k which potentially could yield back $65,000 [per year].

Mr. Hunter continued, "I have not spoke with Doyle Crews [Property Appraiser]. [The Project] will generate about $65,000 in ad valorem tax."

Mr. Hunter said the State may slow up the project due to state right-of-ways and permits.

Your reporter asked, "What's the average salary, not counting managers?"

Mr. Hunter answered, "About 12 dollars an hour. That's what they've indicated to us."

Your reporter asked, "People pumping gas make that?"

Chairman Nash said, "People don't pump gas anymore."

Mr. Hunter continued, "They have insurance and retirement."

The Incentive Agreement states the following in relevant part:

2.      COMPANY’S REPRESENTATIONS AND ASSURANCES.   As an additional incentive to the County for the performance of its obligations under the terms of this Agreement, the Company agrees as follows:
          a.       Beginning no later than thirty (30) days from the date the Company completes construction of the facility as described herein at the Site and continuing for no less than ten (10) years thereafter, the Company will continuously maintain a business upon the Site employing not less than 60 persons in full-time employment as that term is used and understood in ordinary business practices, except during such time as the Company may be prevented from doing so on account of war, acts of public enemy, restrictions or prohibitions of state or federal government, or any of their respective agencies, fire, windstorm, strikes, or other factors beyond the control of the Company.  The average hourly wage of the employees must be no less than $11.00 per hour. In addition to this hourly wage, the Company shall provide health insurance, paid time off, and retirement for its employees in accordance with the Company’s current personnel policies. (emphasis added by the Observer)

An average hourly wage is not the minimum wage. Benefits, such as health insurance, paid time off, and retirement are governed by the "Company's current personnel policies."

None of the EDAB members asked about the policy.

Managers make considerably more than hourly employees. Nowhere is it indicated what the minimum company wage in Ellisville or the Lake City area will be, or what one has to do to be able to receive the company benefit package.

The company did not complete the County's application for an economic development incentive. No one asked to see it.

The Board recommended the County approve the agreement.


Recently, the local print newspaper complained about the confidentiality agreement. Once a company asks for confidentially, the County is bound by Florida Statutes. If the newspaper doesn't like it they should complain to the wizards in Tallahassee. The County 5 are bound to follow the law.

Regarding this project, it is not clear who instigated the confidentially agreement, the County or the Company.

Comments  (to add a comment go here) 

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

Meeting Calendar
No need to be confused - Find links to agendas and where your participation is welcome.

Make a comment • click here •
All comments are displayed at the end of the article and are moderated.