Bigger Project Krew Back in front of County Commission

Bigger Project Krew Back in front of County Commission

A business development project that hasn’t even happened yet is already paying a dividend – and could be headed to St. Johns County.

In mid-March, St. Johns County commissioners reviewed the details of a proposed economic development agreement with a company code-named Project Krew offering the unnamed company incentives valued at more than $4.6 million. The code name was used because the company requested confidentiality as it conducts its search for a new facility.

The issue came up again at a county commission meeting earlier this month, but with a twist.

Jennifer Zuberer, who is moving to a new role as the county’s manager of tourism promotional programs, told commissioners she is still working on economic development and presented information about the revised incentive package.

“This is a significant increase in the proposed investment in St. Johns County,” she said, saying the company is increasing its planned expenditures on building improvements from $14 million to $29 million and will create 400 new jobs, up from 324 in March.

The company would occupy an existing 150,000-square foot building and falls in two targeted industry sectors – advanced manufacturing and health and life sciences

Zuberer said an economic analysis performed by county economist David Kiernan showed the project would add an additional $20 million to the gross county project from the original plan. With the increased financial commitment, the terms of the county’s incentive package changed.

“Based on the increased investment in St. Johns County ,the incentive has been recalculated and it estimated to be $5,821,779,” Zuberer said, with the first grant payment estimated to come in fiscal 2028. Operations at the facility would begin in 2026.

“As with all economic incentive agreements, grant payments will not be made until all performance measures are met,” Zuberer said.

While commissioners unanimously approved moving forward with the drafting of an agreement, some members of the public expressed less enthusiasm for the project.

“I don’t think we should be giving our incentives; I think this is corporate welfare,” said resident Ed Slavin. “It may be legal in the state of Florida, but I think somebody needs to be here with a county hat on like an ombudsman.”

Resident Doris Taylor said she was concerned about the anonymity of the company.

“You spend our taxpayer money on mystery people,” she said. “There’s no way for us to know if this is a good deal or not.”

Scott Maynard, vice president for economic development at the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce, said the incentive package is not a giveaway but an investment.

“It’s an investment because it is not paid out until the company provides feedback and data to show they are doing what they said they were going to do,” he said.

Citing the growth of the healthcare industry already in St. Johns County, Maynard said the company would be a good fit and potentially help attract other new business development.

“We are in a very unique position in St. Johns County,” he said. “The goal would be to utilize Project Krew to attract additional business and industry in this healthcare hub.”

Commissioner Krista Joseph said the incentive package is worth the effort.

“I do want to say I support this because I know what this is and I think it will be great for our county,” she said. “This (incentive package) is the sort of thing to get them to pick us.”

The incentive agreement will come before commissioners at a future meeting for final approval.