Incentives, location luring businesses to area


June 12, 2018

By Andrea Praegitzer - Staff Writer at the Charlotte Sun

Two new businesses are expected to emerge in the southeast section of Enterprise Charlotte Airport Park, bringing dozens of new jobs into the area with tax incentives.

Hialeah-based pallet company, Amigo Pallets, and Ontario based boat builder, MetalCraft Marine, may enter the local scene in the near future.

Exact timing is not set, but between the two, at least 44 jobs could be added to the local economy, according to information from the Charlotte County Economic Development Department Office.

MetalCraft Marine builds high speed, fire/rescue, patrol and work boats — including the new Charlotte County Fire/EMS Marine 1 rescue boat that was unveiled last month during a ceremonial dedication.

At $80,000 more than the previous Marine 1, authorities said it will cost less to operate.

The boat welcomed recently into Charlotte County cost $425,000. It was bought by the West Coast Inland Navigation District, with revenue from property taxes — as well as the Boater Improvement Fund, with revenue from boat registration fees. An additional $12,000 in legislative funding covered a nighttime vision system.

The company has also built and sold boats for numerous other agencies across the U.S. and in Florida such as Tampa Fire & Rescue, Broward County Sheriff’s Office and Miami-Dade County.

Boats will be built from scratch at the facility. One of the top customers on MetalCraft Marine’s commercial side is the U.S. Navy.

The company also has a location in New York, and its Charlotte County location is expected to be located off Northrup Drive — slightly west of Grove Boulevard — on a parcel backing up to a large retention pond.

“They chose this location so they can water test new boats as they are built,” said Dave Gammon, business recruitment supervisor for the Charlotte County Economic Development Department Office.

That application will likely go before county commissioners next month.

The Charlotte County Economic Development Department Office recently received an application from Amigo Pallets for the county’s Ad Valorem Tax Exemption Program, according to Gammon.

“Amigo Pallets agreed to open a facility in Charlotte County to help better service our growth needs,” Simmons said. “Charlotte County has been very welcoming to Cheney Brothers as I’m sure it will be with Amigo Pallets.”

As Cheney continues to grow and add jobs, the company encourages its vendor partners to do the same near each distribution center, said Cheney Brothers President Shane Simmons in a statement to the Sun.

But Cheney Brothers, one of the largest food distributors in south Florida that opened a 350,000 square foot distribution facility with 500 jobs, could get support from Amigo.

Attempts to obtain comment from Amigo Pallet last week were not immediately successful.

Meanwhile, Amigo Pallet is expected to be located on the northwest corner of Woodlawn and Northrup Drive, and Gammon said it’s anticipated the company will hire at least 14 employees.

The funding helps train new employees in specialized crafts required to manufacture new aluminum boats, he said.

“We are also working with CareerSource Florida to provide quick response training funding that could be an incentive worth up to $2,500 per job,” Gammon said.

It doesn’t end there.

Like the state incentive, a performance agreement outlines conditions to earn the local incentive, said Gammon.

That exemption is estimated at about $86,500 over 10 years.

Charlotte County commissioners approved a 10-year exemption for MetalCraft, through the county’s Ad Valorem Tax Exemption program, he said.

And, in order to qualify for the state incentive, Gammon explained “Charlotte County must provide a local match equaling at least 20 percent.”

The tax refund through DEO would total $150,000. That’s $5,000 per job, for at least 30 jobs.

The amount of refund is based on the number of full-time jobs brought to Charlotte County, which pay at least 115 percent of the area’s average annual wage.

“Being a tax refund, the company has to perform to earn the incentive,” said Gammon.

MetalCraft Marine, through a related entity called Megal, received an incentive through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity called Qualified Industry Tax Refund, Gammon explained.

For example, he said, Florida Gov. Rick Scott even called to welcome them. “We were blown away,” said Clark, adding Charlotte County’s Economic Development Department Office has also been great to work with throughout the process.

“When people say Florida is open for business, it is,” said Clark.

The new facility’s spot is ideally located near the Punta Gorda Airport and water, according to Clark, who added low electricity costs, the workforce and an accommodating local and state government were also draws to the area.

Clark said the company’s president, Bill Connor, has a home in the area.

Bob Clark, contract manager for MetalCraft Marine, told the Sun they should close soon on the property and have been communicating with a local builder for the facility.

Email: Apraegitzer@sun-herald.com