Industrial Development Authority Looks to Raise Awareness

Even though it has been around since 1980, most people don’t know the St. Johns County Industrial Development Authority even exists. But new chair Kevin Kennedy and the other members of the body hope to change that.

The process of raising awareness began at the IDA’s last meeting in 2022, with a list of priorities for the coming year. At the top was education and outreach about the agency, followed by community involvement, reaching out to financial and legal professionals related to bond issuance and other items. The priorities are all designed to help the IDA have a bigger impact in the county.

Kevin Kennedy

“We have to define what our goals are,” Kennedy said. “And then we have to go on to defining how we are going to win.”

Winning for Kennedy is getting more people informed about what the IDA does and, more importantly, helping more companies achieve their goals.

The primary purpose of the IDA is to issue tax-exempt bond financing for manufacturing facilities, according to the organization’s website. But the financing is available for a wider range of businesses beyond the manufacturing sector, including water and sewer projects, solid and hazardous waste facilities and even 501(C) (3) non-profits.

Despite operating under the radar, since its inception the IDA has issued more than $1.3 billion in tax-exempt bonds.

“That’s an impressive number,” Kennedy said. “But where did those dollars go and who was utilizing those dollars? It’s really the same people and the same industries that are coming back to the well to utilize the IDA.”

Kennedy said IDA bonds have mainly been used by hospitals and while that is a worthwhile use of the funds, he believes the organization can do more to help the community. And that starts with raising awareness of the agency.

“We’ve talked about partnering with the airport just to help people understand all the benefits we can provide,” he said. “We are trying to diversify the well of bonds that we are typically asked to fill.”

Kennedy said the IDA is ready to talk with companies looking to expand and the baseline for even considering the tax-exempt bond funding the agency offers is pretty basic.

“Anything that can impact and improve the lives of residents of St. Johns County, we can take a look at,” he said. “Just reach out and have a conversation.”

Kennedy said there’s no cost involved in having that conversation and the IDA is eager to increase its footprint across the county.

“That’s why we volunteer, because we really want to see the community grow and we want to use this as a tool to help do it,” he said.