August 17, 2011
By Steve Patterson
Jacksonville council committee OKs incentive package for companies
Jacksonville City Council panels gave their support Tuesday to a surgical technology company and an aircraft maintenance firm seeking state and local money to hire new workers.
Medtronic Xomed could add 175 employees at its 600-person Southside offices. Aircraft service firm KCI Enterprises wants to employ 33 people at Cecil Airport on the Westside.
Both companies are looking for financial help, mostly through the state's Qualified Target Industry (QTI) program, which reimburses businesses after they create new jobs with relatively high wages.
The full council could vote Tuesday on bills approving the aid agreements, which involve up to $1.6 million for Xomed and $165,000 for KCI.
Xomed had some support even before Tuesday's votes by council committees on finance and on recreation, community development, public health and safety.
"This is exactly the kind of thing we need to be doing in Jacksonville," Councilman Bill Bishop told members of the Rules Committee Monday, when that group voted for the Xomed legislation (2011-485).
Bishop called the company "a tremendous corporate citizen."
Xomed, which makes medical instruments, wants to build a research and development center and another center for visiting doctors to learn to use its products.
Finding a site boiled down to a choice between Jacksonville and Fort Worth, Texas, said Joe Whitaker, a Jacksonville Economic Development Commission staffer.
Building locally would cost $14.1 million - about $1.4 million more than in Texas - so the incentives are important to make the city competitive, he said.
"We have a pretty good chance of getting this," Whitaker said.
The QTI program would let Xomed collect up to $980,000 in state money and $245,000 from the city after the 175 jobs are added.
The company could also recover up to $415,000 from property taxes, spread over several years.
The KCI deal (2011-528) would let that business receive up to $132,000 in state money and $33,000 in local money once it sets up a business at Cecil Airport.
The Jacksonville Aviation Authority, which owns the airport, has been negotiating a lease on a hangar that would be built by the authority, Whitaker told council members.
The company, based in West Virginia, primarily services Pratt and Whitney engines that are used in Bombardier and Gulfstream jets, he said.
He told council members KCI wants a presence somewhere in the Southeast and has been weighing possible sites.
"Jacksonville is their preferred one, but they have several offers," he said.
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