Advanced Manufacturing

Clay County Says First Coast Expressway Will Boost Investment

J.J. Harris, president of Clay County Economic Development Corp., says the county has a strong business retention and expansion program.

It is “helping our small businesses retain and expand in the existing facilities,” he said.

The Clay Economic Development Corp. is a nonprofit charged with promoting and recruiting businesses to Clay County that can provide high-skilled, high-paying jobs, increase the nonresidential tax base and expand and improve the county’s economy.

The county is “short of existing buildings but has a lot of greenfield for development,” Harris said.

He refers to the shortage of developed commercial and industrial buildings available to prospective tenants, and the availability of land for investment and construction.

Clay is trying to leverage recruiting with developing infrastructure and specialized financing programs available to the county for business development, he said.

Harris says the county is encouraged by the Florida Department of Transportation’s $1.9 billion investment into the First Coast Expressway and the partnership with local companies to invest millions of dollars to develop infrastructure.

County partnerships include the Clay County Utility Authority, Clay Electric, Florida Power & Light Co., TECO Gas and AT&T to “ensure utilities are available to customers so they can reach the global market,” he said.

The expressway will drive the county’s population growth. Harris said he expects the population to increase from about 216,000 now to more than 230,000 by 2030.

Businesses will be needed to serve and employ those future residents.

Target industries for the county continue to be health care, logistics and distribution, business support, information technology, aviation and defense and advanced manufacturing.

The county also is exploring the recruitment of venture capital and business incubator firms.

The economic development agency is seeking a $57,000 grant from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity to hire a consultant to review and recommend governance and business incentives.

The grant also will fund the First Coast Expressway Stakeholders Summit and public presentations.

The study is scheduled for completion by June 30.

Clay County incentives available include:

• Economic Development Grants that focus on commercial businesses that add to the tax base. They must create 10 or more full-time jobs that pay more than 1% over the county’s average annual wage, which is $37,022 for 2019. The 10 jobs must be created for a full tax year. Private capital investment by the business also must be more than $1 million.

• Large Primary Employer Retention Grants target employers that employ at least 100 workers and provide goods and services that attract new sales and investment into the county.

• Tangible Personal Property Capital Investment Grants offer an incentive for businesses to locate in the county. The business must invest at least $1 million into equipment. The business must be a qualified target industry and create 50 jobs paying 101% of the county’s average wage or 20 jobs paying 150% of the average wage.

• Large Primary Employer Grants that are available for businesses to move to the county and build or lease facilities. Businesses must employ at least 150 people with at least 10 paid 101% of the county’s annual average wage.

• Industrial Development Revenue Bonds are issued by the Clay County Development Authority for relocation or expansion of industrial businesses. The amount of tax-exempt bonds is determined by the scope of the project.

• Regulatory relief that provides economic development impact fee mitigation for qualified target industries. Businesses must create 10 jobs or create a 10% increase in existing jobs paying 115% of the county’s average wage or 100% of the average wage for manufacturing businesses.


By Scott Sailer, Jax Daily Record, October 28, 2019