Fortune 500 company to expand its existing operations within Lee
A Fortune 500 company will bring 200 high wage jobs to the area by 2013, though no one in Lee County’s Economic Development office will divulge the name of the company, not even to county commissioners.
According to county Economic Development Director Jim Moore, the unnamed company opted to utilize an obscure Florida statute that allows it a level of clandestine operation while awaiting the state’s portion of a “closing grant.”
Commissioners were asked at their meeting Tuesday to approve the county’s portion of the grant.
At $350,000, Commissioner Frank Mann balked at spending county funds without first knowing where and how the money would be spent.
The $350,000 grant comes from a $25 million county surplus for economic diversification incentives.
“Why can our staff know this and I can’t, and I’m the elected official,” Mann asked. “I’m a little nervous about this.”
Moore admitted that he did not know how the money would be spent, only that it would cement the company’s long-term plans within Lee County.
“I can’t say they are going to spend this on pencils or parties,” Moore said.
He added that the name of the company would be revealed “by the end of January, or the first week of February,” depending on when the state comes through with its portion of the grant.
Commission Chairman Ray Judah protested Mann’s line of questioning, citing the county’s “wherewithal” to set aside $25 million for economic incentives.
“We should have enough faith in our economic team and its director,” he said. “This should be a time to celebrate.”
While not fully disclosing the company’s name, Moore did let a few facts see the light of day.
He said the company already has a presence in Lee County. It will not focus on the county’s mainstays, tourism and construction, instead creating 200 new “market research” type jobs with an average salary of $60,000 by 2013. The new building will cost an estimated $11.5 million and be located somewhere in the greater Fort Myers area.
Commissioner Tammy Hall wanted it made clear the company chose to be located in Fort Myers, not directed there by the economic development office or the Horizon Council.
“When a company comes in, we offer them all of Lee County,” she said. “We don’t tell them where to go, we give them options to choose from.”
Currently, Bonita Springs-based Source Interlink and Fort Myers-based Chico’s FAS are the only Fortune 500 companies already located in Lee County.
Moore hinted that the company has three offices nationwide. It will close one of those offices in order to open the Lee County branch, though Moore did not say why one of those branches would close.
“This is global in nature, not national,” Moore said. “For $350,000 we are getting an extraordinary value.”
The vote passed 3-2, with Mann and Brian Bigelow dissenting.