Solar company seeks big incentives to bring 800 jobs to Jacksonville

Jacksonville, FL — An unnamed solar company is looking to set up its US headquarters in Jacksonville- creating 800 jobs in the next two years- but they’re asking the City and State for more than $53 million in early incentives to seal the deal. It’s a total that could be much higher, as time goes on.

The Economic Development Agreement and Project Summary that’s been filed for City Council consideration identifies the company only as “Project Volt”, who is a “leading manufacturer of solar panels and modules”. The Summary says the company manufactures for customers worldwide, for commercial and residential needs. It has eight production facilities across the globe, but this would be the first one in the US and would serve at the national headquarters.

The EDA commits 400 jobs each of the next two years, for a total of 800 jobs paying a $46,346 average wage by the end of 2019. The company is also proposing investing $410 million in leasing, improving, and equipping two Jacksonville warehouses- one at the Cecil Commerce Center on New World Avenue and one on Faye Road. In addition to jobs they would directly create, the company expects to have a positive impact on JAXPORT, saying they would have a “large volume” of import and export activities.

“There is currently a growing demand for solar panels, by utility companies and individual consumer across the U.S. Companies like Project Volt have determined that it has recently become more cost effective to begin to manufacture their products close to their client base. The proposed facility will be one of the more advanced solar panel manufacturing operations in the world, and Project Volt’s first manufacturing facility in the U.S. The establishment of such a high tech operation in Jacksonville could possibly lead to other similar types of operations and affiliated suppliers being attracted to Jacksonville,” says the Project Summary.

In exchange for selecting Jacksonville for their headquarters, the Company is asking the City alone for $24.6 million in incentives. The State would be on the hook for at least $29.3 million from the start- but between recurring dollars and currently unspecified sums, the price tag could climb much higher.

The City incentives are two-fold. First, the company is seeking a Qualified Targeted Industry Tax Refund of up to $800,000 over five years. The program pays per job, and would only be paid as the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity verifies the job creation and wage targets. The second part comes as a Recaptured Enhanced Value Grant of up to $23.8 million over ten years. This represents 75% of the increase in property taxes the company pays in its first ten years of operation.

From the State, there is a match of the QTI program payout, which would mean up to $3.2 million. They’re additionally seeking a High Impact Performance Incentive of up to $5 million, payable as a cash grant for meeting specific performance goals; and an Urban Job Tax Credit of up to $400,000, which is paid out per employee for the jobs at Cecil Commerce. A Veterans Florida Business Training Grant would give thousands for each veteran employee trained, capped at $200,000 per year- essentially allowing a grant for each employee if the company hires an entirely veteran workforce.

The largest ask is a Capital Investment Tax Credit to offset the company’s state corporate income tax liability. The Project Summary says the annual cap on that credit is $20,500,000, but it could be used over a 20 year period.

Two more incentives don’t have an immediately available price tag- a Florida Flex Training grant per new job created, which the Summary says the company would work with the State to determine what they should qualify for; and a 100% exemption of sales and use tax related to buying their manufacturing machinery and equipment.

The incentives are a “material factor” in the decision to locate in Jacksonville, according to the documents. The agreement is being introduced to the City Council Tuesday, and faces a full and final vote two weeks after that.

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