What Your IDA and EDC are Working on Today:
Mar 19, 2013
- Project Evergreen is a very large, confidential, Ag project looking for a home, hopefully in Hardee County. Site requirements limit location to a small number of properties. It continues to be active with the Economic Development Office and is projected at a $200,000,000 investment with 400 full time jobs at full build out. This project continues to stay at the top of the list of preferred private sector job creation opportunities. Due diligence will accelerate once a site is optioned by the company.
- Ft. Green LNG (liquefied natural gas this is a totally private venture that has received a major special exception land use change in Hardee County to accommodate its construction. Recent natural gas discoveries across North America complement its construction. The EDC and IDA have no funding involvement in this project other than local facilitation. Fort Green Storage, LLC proposes to take natural gas (methane) off existing main lines and to process and cool the methane to liquefied natural gas (LNG). The LNG will be used in two markets: (1) transportation fuel for automotive, large trucks and marine fuel; and (2) electrical generation fuel for both peaking and base load natural gas power generation plants. Fort Green Storage LLC has 486 acres under option in Hardee County and has obtained a Major Special Exception to build its proposed project. The project will be built in two phases:
LNG for transportation fueling with a capital cost estimated at $40MM/$80MM at 10,000-50,000 Mcf/day liquefaction. (Every 10,000 Mcf (1000 cubic feet) produces 120,000 gallons of LNG.)
The liquefaction and storage of up to 12 BCF of LNG including three large on site erected tanks with a capacity of 4 BCF each. Capital cost of approximately $200MM each for a total of $800MM.
The project offers two benefits to the State. First, transportation fuel for trucking that is a much lower cost than diesel. LNG sells for a significant discount from diesel pricing with an abundant supply of domestic natural gas for the future. The project could make Florida a leader in providing low cost transportation alternatives for moving products. Discussions are ongoing with various parties for off-take and tolling agreements.
Second, LNG for generation fueling provides: (1) security during pipeline and generation outages; (2) peaking fuel to replace existing high cost fuel oil backup and (3) affords utilities a means to better utilize existing pipeline capacity. The electric power utilities are key to success for the large storage (Phase 2).
- Bio Fuels
We must always ask: Is the proposed crop better than known existing cash flow potentials for the land, relative to economic risk factors (production yield cash flow stability), climatological and even political risk factors such as water use and labor regulations?
There continues to be activity in the biofuels market development. The problem is finding growers to invest in bio fuels crops without a refinery and how to justify a refinery without a reliable crop (chicken and egg situation). I generally evaluate the potential of a biomass crop on the competitive availability of land (is it better than citrus or cattle) and adaptability to classification of soil type (will it thrive on various soil types) for suitability to be considered as an alternative crop. Many of the proposals are put forth by scientists and entrepreneurs that have no direct acumen for Florida climate and growing conditions.
- Expansion of water and sewer in the development corridor will occur from Zolfo Springs to Wauchula first. It is a joint effort between the County, the cities and the IDA. Bowling Green, Wauchula, Zolfo Springs and Hardee County are all part of the working group, coordinated and facilitated by the IDA staff.
- Bio Nitrogen is a biomass to urea project planned for the Larry Davis property in Vandolah. The IDA will provide up to 2 million for rail/road infrastructure pending marketing of bond financing totaling $175 million. The bonds will be issued thru Enterprise Florida (Florida Development Finance Co) and by B, B and T, at this point. A press release by the company on Feb. 20, 2013 states Governor Scott approved up to $175 million of tax exempt bonds.
- Sheriff Command Center was constructed in the Commerce Park to facilitate certain operational needs of the Hardee County Sheriff and to provide a security presence for the business in the area due to Sheriff personnel traffic into and out of the Park.
- JDC Phosphates
This is a $23 million fulfillment of a previously designed refinery process for “high mag or reject rock” that is being developed in Ft. Meade as a pilot. It is anticipated the full scale production facility can be located in Hardee County. It could develop into hundreds of ancillary jobs related to increase phosphoric acid production and aggregates and has procured approx. $23 million in venture capital thus far to develop its product.
The initial relationship for Hardee County related to this project is the approval by the IDA for $200,000 in funding for the project contained in the attached PDF to prove the reliability of the aggregate by-product. The by-product will come initially from the pilot plant production in Ft. Meade and “reject rock” supplied by CFI in Hardee County. Discussions related to securing the grant funding with an equal quantity of “J-rock” or reject rock supply to the County in the event the economic development related to the project never materializes in Hardee County are being considered.
- Presentations and approvals to and by the IDA occurred on March 12, 2013.
- PFM (Production, Fabrication and Manufacturing LLC)
Construction on the 20,000 square foot PFM building is on schedule. We remain in constant contact with company representatives related to construction time frames and details related to building customization, Space Florida, QTI and numerous ancillary issues. We are still targeting the 1st half of April for construction progress suitable to begin installing robotic manufacturing equipment for the production of “rotary engine driven generators”.
- Tech River is a subsidized “vocational-tech” training center providing real work training scenarios and employment, including compensation while being trained. We are in constant contact with this project generally, on a daily basis. It has many moving parts and can best be described as “pure” economic development. It is not now, nor has it ever been considered to be classified as a “project” as defined in 159.27 (5) as proposed by the Auditor General. Rather, it is an economic development initiative pursued and funded by the Hardee County Industrial Development Authority as a result of the Mosaic Economic Terms Agreement.
The interpretation of the statute by the Auditor General related to Chapter 159, Florida Statutes is an opinion and does not carry the weight of law, but has created serious political fallout. Despite this curious interpretive intrusion by the Auditor, the IDA continues to fund its obligations under contract and has authorized its attorney to seek an opinion from the Attorney General of the State of Florida.
There has been contentious philosophical dissention over the initiative ranging from extreme allegations of fraud, waste and abuse, political cronyism and inept judgment to praise and encouragement from both conservative and progressive factions.
Food for Thought
- Economic Development in Hardee County is difficult for many reasons. Among those most easily recognized is a pervasive indifference to the idea of diversifying the driving components of our economy. Additionally, some feel threatened, some feel disenfranchised; some are so skeptical it can’t be sufficiently accomplished in time to positively impact their own existence, if ever.
- How does a community confront its future? Nothing remains constant in various economies. There have been profound changes in Hardee County’s economic makeup over the last 150 years.
- The railroad opened opportunities and threats, depending on the attitude of the individual’s perspective.
- Changing from “open range” grazing to fenced pastures disenfranchised some and created opportunity for others. The automobile and ensuing road construction increased opportunity for most, but was considered a threat by some. Telegraph, radio, telephone, electricity and television all eventually made impacts on our lives and evolved into new generations of influence and economic opportunity.
- We were the “frog leg and the Cucumber Capital” in bygone days along with being considered a progressive, commercial center.
- Changes in agricultural practices and technology have changed the crops we grow in the area, the entities that produce them and the labor that does the harvesting.
- Changes in retailing have radically transformed commerce, not only in our County, but especially in small communities and whether these changes are good or not are not the issue. The issue is whether or not the community can adapt and diversity in a timely and sufficient manner to replace economies lost with new ideas and approaches.
- Education has become a one-way ticket out of most small communities for the last couple of generations because the mechanisms in the economy that provided a livelihood changed or disappeared and were not replaced.
- Hardee County has a readily identifiable set of circumstances that has created its current economic status and several readily identifiable solutions to its current economic status as long as political and business leadership continues to focus on creation of solutions and adaptations to economic change.
- In addition to the pursuit of industrial development (especially in the electric power grid, natural gas line, rail and mining corridor of the western third of the county), commercial and light development (the development of service and manufacturing businesses in the central portions along the transportation corridor including the expansion of water and wastewater services), agricultural enhancement and expansion (predicated on anticipation of pathological solutions to current crop or alternative crops related to bio mass or laws of supply and demand in a world with 7 billion persons), all scholarly and economic indicators point to the pursuit and development of a technology sector component.
- Adding a technology sector to our small rural economy has never been considered an easy task, but failing to add meaningful diversity such as a technology sector to a small rural economy when given the opportunities Hardee County has been given may be more disdainful than pursuit of more easily comprehended alternatives.
- The initial pursuit of a technology sector began in the summer of 2011, thru the initial grant funding cycle of the first Mosaic Economic Terms Agreement payment. This first payment was completed in May of 2011, even though the Agreement was consummated in 2008.
- The IDA, in an effort to solicit ideas from the private sector and anxious to infuse development opportunity into the local economy after almost four years of severe economic downturn at the national state and local level, authorized a funding cycle to award economic development money provided by the Mosaic Company, according to the terms of the agreement.
- Even though this cycle had almost $3 million available, there were not any “blue chip” companies anxious to expand operations to Hardee County and none were anticipated.
- In reality, Hardee County has a diversity of national and local “blue chip” businesses including Tampa Electric, Northern Star Generation, Invenergy, Mosaic, CFI, Seminole Electric, Oldcastle, Seychelles Organics, United Agricultural Products, Helena, Keyplex, Pacer Marine, 5 financial institutions, Florida Hospital, numerous national and regional chain establishments, hundreds of small businesses and state and local governmental entities.
- The national economic downturn in continuing to penetrate deeper into the national ideological foundations caused an insightful observation that technology was touching every sector and every citizen. We had/have continued as a nation to become so efficient and so benevolent in sharing our intellect and pinnacle existence with the rest of the world that our way of life was being noticeably impacted. The logical indicators, the academia and the politicians, asserted and continue to assert focus on this technological revolution.
- Economic development and politics generally work hand in hand in a complementary and complimentary fashion. LifeSync and its current evolutionary existence of Continuum are the result of an entire set of circumstances related to development of technology sector as an aspect of economic development, politics and the initial grant funding cycle associated with the Mosaic Economic Terms Agreement.
- The intent and purpose of this funding was/is to provide economic incentive to entrepreneurial talent in the context of paying for training local citizens, while creating a complimentary culture of diversity with a technology sector in the Hardee County economy.
- This project location, at the old PRECO headquarters, is named Tech River Technology Park. The objective is to add a complementary mix of employment opportunities including development of entrepreneurial talent in an economy that is generally void of such opportunity, to enhance the other components that provide a means for folks to live in Hardee County and a government to provide its “promotion of the general welfare.”
- Rapid Systems will be moving its main office and engineering staff from West Shore in Tampa to occupy part of Tech River, inclusive of training for job preparation in the wireless Broadband field. (The final audit for closeout of the Hardee Broadband project has been initiated and will be performed by Clifton, Larsen, Allen).
- Rapid Tech, a local technology company will be located in the PRECO building to provide and expand VOIP (voice over internet protocol) phone service to Hardee County and to enhance their current business syllabus.
- Recruitment of additional established and start-ups will continue as an objective of economic development in Hardee County, especially with the Mosaic Economic Terms Agreement pending resolution of the interpretation of Chapter 159, Florida Statutes. If the IDA was not allowed to enter into contracts to “foster and promote economic development” according to the verbiage in the statute, only “bricks and mortar projects” according to 1970’s development philosophy of bond issues will be pursued henceforth. We are in a transition economy and public tax supported operational projects are going to be a tough sell.
- Everyone should be totally aware of land use, property ownership, likely acquisition/development scenarios into the future (feeding a 7+ billion population in the world) and post-mining reclamation maps before developing conservative or indifferent attitudes towards economic development efforts in Hardee County.
Note: there are other projects that remain under confidentiality.
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