Jeff Waters, editor
Live Oak —
The petition by Suwannee Progress enabling citizens to sign demonstrating their willingness to see a manufacturing company come into the area is just short of its goal of 1,000 signatures, Suwannee Progress spokesperson Robin Young said.
The local political action committee has been working for over a month to garner 1,000 signatures by May 1 to present to the Suwannee County Board of County Commissioners asking them “to support this project completely and tell ‘Project Christmas’ officials that we welcome them to our community.” The committee is about 70 signatures short and has thus extended the deadline until Monday, May 7 in hopes of gathering those needed.
What is ‘Project Christmas’?
The possibility of a company locating on the catalyst site near the intersection of US 90 West and I-10 has been referred to as “Project Christmas” ever since company officials met with local officials during Christmas of 2010. According to North Florida Economic Development Partnership Executive Director Jeff Hendry, the direct, indirect and induced jobs during the first year would generate over $29 million in wages. Once the project becomes operational within three years that number is expected to increase to nearly $37 million annually.
Hendry stated the company is a manufacturer of building components and is a regionally targeted industry.
“This is an anchor industry that will draw others,” Hendry elaborated.
The average for “Project Christmas” employees would be $30,000 annually plus $9,900 in benefits.
The average worker’s wages in Suwannee County are $25,182 annually.
According to Hendry, this is the most highly competitive environment he’s ever seen in attracting a company. However, he added that the state and federal government have committed $12,096,000 for infrastructure at the catalyst site.
“The types of infrastructure include water, wastewater, storm water, transportation improvements that include road and rail and site clearing and prep,” Hendry said.
In addition to the state and federal commitments, Hendry specified the private sector had committed nearly $3 million for electric, $700,000 for natural gas, $214,000 broadband commitment and a $3 million railroad commitment.
The projected expense to Suwannee County for “Project Christmas” would be about $3,340,000, Hendry said. Those expenses include $1.1 million for land acquisition, $2.2 million for land clearing and preparation and $40,000 for storm water.
Hendry reiterated that the 10 year return on Suwannee County’s $3.34 million investment is projected at $879,866,981.
The company has asked for an additional 155 acres to add to the 100 acres already secured by the county to support it. The problem, say some commissioners, is the price. The value of the additional property will likely exceed $500,000. The property owner is asking for $1 million. A second appraisal has been ordered by the county and will be made public at a future county commission meeting on what steps to take next.
Can be found at these local businesses: Town and Country Tire, Chamber of Commerce and the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park. You can also visit http://www.change.org/petitions/project-christmas and electronically sign the petition. Suwannee Progress will also be at the Suwannee River Jam beginning today with petition forms for local residents.