County Commission Green Lights Development Incentive

County Commission Green Lights Development Incentive

If it’s true you have to spend money to make money, then St. Johns County can expect a windfall. At a recent meeting, commissioners approved a $118,784 development incentive package for Vermeer Southeast Sales & Service that will create 18 new jobs and produce $3.3 million annually in gross county product.

“The cost-benefit analysis does show a positive return on this,” said project manager Savannah Rogers. “As with any economic development incentive, all of our grants are performance-based so no payments will be paid until performance measures are met.”

The company, which sells parts and related services and machinery for agricultural and manufacturing operations, plans to build a 32,000-square foot facility near the intersection of U.S. 1 and International Golf Parkway with an investment of $7.7 million. The facility will include office and industrial space, and serve as the company’s regional headquarters.

While supportive of the incentive package, Commissioner Krista Joseph said traffic issues related to the site were worrisome.

“I looked into the company – it’s a great company,” she said. “My concern is its location. I just wish it was closer to I-95.”

Joseph said International Golf Parkway “is literally a two-lane road” and the increased truck traffic could pose a danger to motorists.

“My concern is the amount of trucks on that road that is never going to be widened because it’s through a conservation area,” she said.

Dick D’Souza, assistant director of transportation, said there is a development of regional impact agreement in place “that has an obligation to widen and improve all of International Golf Parkway” and there are “multiple” projects underway as well the potential for other improvements as necessary.

Resident Ann Taylor was one of several speaking during the public comment period in opposition to the project.

“Once again, I would like to thank Commissioner Joseph for speaking up on behalf of the residents,” she said. “(International Golf Parkway) is a nightmare of a road.”

Scott Maynard, vice president of economic development at the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce, offered support for the incentive and said Vermeer would be a good fit for the county.

“Vermeer works closely with many of our targeted industries,” he said, adding the company has already met with officials at First Coast Technical College to create a training program. “This is another investment in the county that will reap benefits for many years to come.”

Commissioners approved a motion for staff to draft a formal agreement to be considered at a future meeting by a 4-1 vote with Joseph voting against the measure.