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County office works to expand local job market

By Staff | Jul 1, 2009

Despite an unemployment rate of more than 12 percent, Lee County’s Economic Development Office has quietly been going about expanding the area job market.
The jobs, considered high wage/high skill positions, pay 125 percent more than the average yearly salary, which is $36,217.
Business assistance manager Sue Noe said the office has helped to grow 1,000 local jobs by using, in part, $25 million in economic incentives set aside by the Lee County Commission.
“It’s very fortunate we have the reserves because it can help us close the deal,” she said. “We’re working very hard to help our local businesses expand.”
Last year the Economic Development Office used the incentives to help with the expansion of Gartner Inc., a worldwide research and analysis company.
Gartner Inc. retained 346 local employees, plans to create 200 new jobs and will construct a new 70,000-square-foot facility.
The Economic Development Office now has its sights set on another existing Lee County business, which will increase the local job market by 350 new positions.
Noe said the office is not yet allowed to divulge the name of the company. As part of the financial incentive agreement, the company remains confidential while awaiting approval from commissioners.
The board approved a $1 million incentive at its meeting Tuesday. Noe said the name of the company could be divulged as early as next week.
She warned, however, that the money is not simply handed over, and that the best interest of taxpayers is being closely guarded. The company only receives the funds as the new positions are created.
“Part of the performance agreement is that no money changes hands until they meet certain conditions,” Noe said.
Being a brand new program, Noe said the Economic Development Office has slowly been establishing the process by which to use the $25 million to attract companies or encourage growth.
Commissioner Frank Mann formerly condemned the process because of the confidentiality, but has since changed his mind.
“At first I was reluctant to write blank checks …. but now I’m comforted by the approach,” he said.