Martin County's unemployment rate has hovered around 12 percent the past 12 months.
For this reason — and others — the county's work force would benefit from a proposed project that would employ 600 workers, pay an average wage of $43,350 (plus benefits), and generate more than $210,000 per year in property taxes under current rates.
On March 15, the County Commission has the opportunity to sweeten the pot and possibly lure the company, which also is considering three other locations, to Martin County.
And the best part is, the county has money to invest in this project because commissioners had the foresight in June to create an economic development fund — for this very purpose.
An unnamed Martin County yacht company is looking to construct a new, 100,000-square-foot factory to design and manufacture wind and water turbine components. If the county provides $435,000, the company becomes eligible for a a $1.8 million grant from the state.
The Business Development Board of Martin County is working with Enterprise Florida and Gov. Rick Scott's office on the deal, which has been dubbed "Project Felix."
"I think it would be an extraordinarily positive deal for Martin County, if we can pull it off," said County Commissioner Patrick Hayes. "I just don't see any down side whatsoever."
The project would require no land use or zoning changes — always a contentious issue in Martin County — because the yacht builder already owns land designated for industrial use.
The county's economic development fund was established to provide incentives for high-paying businesses to relocate or expand in Martin County. The goals? To create jobs, diversify the economy and boost the tax base.
Project Felix — if the county is fortunate enough to acquire it — appears to meet all these criteria.
To participate in the county's economic development fund, the prospective company must demonstrate, among other things, that target levels for job creation, wages and taxable investment commitments have been achieved. Additionally, the proposed agreement contains provisions for penalties, repayment or suspension of payments for non-performance.
Come Tuesday, commissioners should enthusiastically endorse the proposal to earmark $435,000 of taxpayers' money for this project. After all, if Project Felix hits its target of generating more than $210,000 in property taxes each year, it will pay for itself in only two years.
That — and the jobs the new facility will provide for county residents — make it a worthwhile investment.