LIVE OAK — Another company may soon call Suwannee County’s catalyst site home.
At least that is the hope of the Suwannee County Board of County Commissioners, which gave staff permission to move forward with a potential developer’s agreement for another business at the catalyst site in western Suwannee County at its Oct. 1 meeting.
County Administrator Randy Harris told the board that he has had preliminary discussions with a business that is looking in the area for a new location that would include a large building and more than 100 workers. He added the company is ready to move quickly as it already has blueprints for the building it hopes to construct.
As he continues those discussions, Harris wanted the board’s direction on what types of incentives the county should offer in the hope of securing that business at the site, adding the company has talked with other counties as well.
He said in addition to the current tax rebate program the county offers — companies can earn up to four years to tax rebates that would be paid back out to them over a seven-year period depending on a number of performance goals met — he was curious if the commissioners would be interested in a potential rebate of the land value as well.
“We could rebate 10 percent of that each year for 10 years and would again be performance-based,” Harris said, adding the county has other built-in incentives such as access to Interstates 10 and 75 as well as the rail spur at the site plus the lack of impact fees on transportation and utilities.
“I’m confident Suwannee County is a significant incentive in and of itself.”
Chairman Ricky Gamble said he was in favor of trying to get as much of the land at the catalyst site developed and used to increase the county’s tax base.
“I don’t want to say with whatever means necessary but new ways to attract and compete … if we can get it back on the tax rolls, then I’m all for it,” Gamble said.
Harris said pushing him to try and attract another business at the catalyst site stem from issues with Klausner Lumber One and the potential impacts that has on the grant the county obtained to help develop the site, which was based on job growth.
“That company has not indicated to date that they are performing in accordance to the agreement,” Harris said, meaning the county could have to repay the grant funds it has already spent.
He said he is trying to see if a new company could be used to meet those requirements and maintain the grant funding, which is still needed to complete a rail crossing and access road to the site.
“If we do this, it puts us in a much better position to preserve the … grant,” Harris said with Gamble adding that the majority of that approximately $1.3 million grant funding has not been spent.
Harris asked the board if the cost of the land that it would potentially repay a new company — possibly $150,000 — would be worth keeping a grant worth more than $1 million.
“That’s a pretty good swap in my mind,” he said.
Gamble added that without the grant and the railroad crossing it would allow the county to complete, it will be hard for the county to continue to grow and develop the industrial site.
Commissioners Don Hale and Ronnie Richardson said the prospect of a new company at the site would be great, creating more jobs in the county while also alleviate those issues at the site.
“I think it’s a win-win for everybody,” Richardson said, adding he would like to use the potential land rebate as a bargaining chip in negotiations if necessary.
National 4-H Week proclamation
Joined by County Extension Director Katherine Allen as well as Adora Sage and Lara Croft, the president and vice president of the county’s 4-H council, the board proclaimed Oct. 6-12 as National 4-H Week.
Allen told the board that 4-H is one of the largest youth development organizations in the state with 198,032 youth members and also has more than six million participants nationwide. In Suwannee County more than 1,500 youth are involved in 4-H with more than 50 adult volunteers.
The commission also unanimously approved closing an un-named and un-developed road near 24th Street and County Road 132 that was deeded to the county in 1939.
According to Ronald Meeks, the county’s planning and zoning director, the road doesn’t connect those other roads, instead ends in the middle of a large tract of pasture land.
“It doesn’t serve any purpose for access,” Meeks said.