STUART — A Martin County yacht builder is expected to decide by April 1 whether to build a new $14 million water and wind turbine component factory in the county and create 600 relatively high-paying jobs.
Martin County commissioners took turns praising the yacht builder, whose identity is being kept confidential until the deal is completed, before voting unanimously to chip in $435,000 toward the new project in the next five years.
The next step is for the state government to sign off on $1.8 million in state sales tax refunds during the course of five years and an additional closing grant from Gov. Rick Scott's office, said Crystal Stiles, co-director of the Business Development Board of Martin County, which helped put together the deal.
After that, it's up to the yacht builder to decide whether to expand in Martin County or set up the turbine factory elsewhere, Stiles said. A decision on "Project Felix" is expected by April 1.
The company also owns a facility in another state that is also offering incentives to attract the project, Stiles said.
"We are Martin County citizens, we like Martin County ... and we're excited about our project," said Philip Catsman, a representative of Project Felix, told the commissioners.
Commissioners said they were glad to have Catsman's company in Martin County and encouraged him to set up the turbine factory here.
"We are very fortunate to have what appears to be an overwhelming sure shot," said Commissioner Ed Fielding. "What I think is remarkable about this particular project is the amount of money, capital, that the applicant is contributing. I think that's admirable."
Eleven people spoke in favor of the county chipping in money for Project Felix, one opposed the spending and one questioned the secrecy about the identity of the yacht builder.
"We strongly support the request," said Linda Hake, president of the Palm City Chamber of Commerce. "It is an extraordinary opportunity for Martin County. It will have tremendous economic benefits."
Former County Commissioner Elmira Gainey, a Port Salerno real estate agent, said, "The operative word is opportunity. We are in need of job opportunities. I really don't see a way we could say 'no.'"
Jack Burns of the Small Business Development Center at Indian