IDA Offers 10 Years Tax-Free to Mystery- Date Investor

The Dade Industrial Development Authority (IDA) voted at its meeting on Monday to offer 10 years of no taxes to an unnamed foreign company as an incentive to invest in Dade.

"Given our precedent with Vanguard, we have a project here with twice the number of jobs and almost 10 times the investment," said Peter Cervelli (left), IDA's executive director, asking for a motion to approve the offer after an executive, or closed-door, session at the Oct. 31 meeting.

The prospective new job provider, or in any case the push to attract the provider to Dade, was given the name "Project Baseball." Cervelli said that this was just a code name and that the company had nothing to do with sports as far as he knew.

"Project Baseball is a 700-job, quarter-billion-dollar investment by some foreign company that I don't know who it is," said Cervelli.

Cervelli explained that Project Baseball was a "state project" sponsored by the Georgia Department of Economic Development, which itself might or might not know the identity of the mysterious investor. The way it works, said Cervelli, is that companies interested in building in industry-hungry areas like Dade hire a third-party representative to go out and investigate what potential sites have to offer. In this case, he believed the investor was looking at sites in four states.

"The question is, why would we come to Dade County in the state of Georgia," said Cervelli. In Dade, IDA has a list of preapproved incentives to offer. "The incentives are based on jobs and investment," said Cervelli. "We know the jobs, we know the investment--we made an incentive offer."

Georgia may also make an offer to incentivize the anonymous company, said Cervelli. "They may throw $10 million at them," he said. "I have no idea."

In the case of the new Vanguard plant now in production in the new section of the Dade industrial park, Georgia actually paid Vanguard $1 million in cash to build here. At the Monday meeting, Cervelli reported he had been collecting receipts he was required to show Georgia to prove that Vanguard had paid the $30 million it had promised to invest in the Dade plant as its part of that bargain. Vanguard was currently at $29 million-something, said Cervelli. "So apparently they've made their commitment in terms of finances at this point," he said.

Vanguard also promised Dade 400 jobs. Cervelli said the semi-truck trailer manufacturer is up to 130 employees now, and IDA Chairman Nathan Wooten added that the company is in the process of hiring 90 more, which will put it at over half its commitment in that area.

Wooten said the Vanguard plant was cranked up for production now after some initial startup setbacks. "It took them until September 19 to get the first trailer out," said Wooten. "I was told yesterday they were building five to eight trailers a day. The goal is 50 a day."

Wooten noted after the meeting that the Vanguard plant had started life in Dade as "Project Moon," another cloaked-in-secrecy initiative between IDA and a mystery-date investor.

Matters Vanguard continue to dominate IDA doings: Of IDA's $564,577.20 cash on hand, Cervelli said $430,000 is owed Norfolk & Southern Railroad for work on the Vanguard Drive crossing--which IDA members said trains continue to make impassable. "They told us they wouldn't block that road and they do it every day," complained one.

Cervelli asked members to report when that happened. "Let us know so we can raise hell about it," he said.

Cervelli said after the meeting that IDA's initial idea of building a bridge over the Vanguard Drive crossing had proved cost-prohibitive. During the meeting, he said about $320,000 in additional paving is needed for the project, which the city of Trenton will perform if the state and county approve. "We're hoping next year," he said.

In other business, IDA voted to change the terms of its lease with another big Dade employer, Lake Region, formerly known as Accellent, to which IDA acts as landlord. At last month's meeting, Cervelli had explained that under the current contract, IDA was only allowed to raise the company's rent based on the Consumer Price Index, from $1291.52 a month to $1305.21. "It didn't even cover the cost of the nails we put in the roof of the new building," said Cervelli at the Monday meeting.

The new arrangement, which will take effect in 2018, will allow IDA to negotiate new lease terms, including raising the rent according to market rates up to a 10 percent cap.

IDA meets at 3 p.m. on the fourth Monday of each month in the Dade Administrative Building. This month, it will meet on Nov. 28. Members agreed, unless something develops that can't wait, to cancel their December meeting as it conflicted with the Christmas holiday.

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