Wednesday, April 25, 2018
News Roundup

Clearwater uses incentives to lure businesses to east side

CLEARWATER — If three makes a trend, then Clearwater's economic development team might be riding a hot hand.

In recent weeks, General Electric and two local companies, Heritage Property and Casualty and MarineMax, have pledged to bring hundreds of jobs to Tampa Bay's third-largest city.

For many years, Clearwater Beach and downtown got most of the new development in the city. Consider Beach Walk, the Sandpearl and Hyatt resorts, and the Water's Edge and Station Square condo towers.

But after a prolonged recession, the economic development staff has turned its focus to the U.S. 19 commercial corridor on the east side of the city, and as recent announcements show, the effort is bearing fruit.

"The city has been heavily dependent on residential property taxes. This will broaden the city's tax base to create a better balance," said Geri Campos Lopez, Clearwater's director of economic development and housing.

At a work session Monday, City Council members praised Lopez and her assistant director, Denise Sanderson, for their latest success: sparking the rebirth of a sparsely occupied office complex at 2600 McCormick Drive off U.S. 19 north of Sunset Point Road.

Both Heritage and MarineMax plan to set up shop in the office complex.

Heritage relocation

Heritage will relocate its corporate headquarters from St. Petersburg to the McCormick Drive complex, bringing along 54 jobs with a promise to create 11 more next year. Average annual wages would exceed $87,000.

A sister company, Skye Lane Properties, plans to spend nearly $6 million improving the property, including building a three-level parking garage. Three years ago, the Achieva Credit Union passed on the McCormick Drive site and eventually moved its headquarters to Dunedin, in part because of a lack of parking on the property, Lopez told the council.

The city plans to exempt Heritage from an estimated $168,472 in real and tangible property taxes over a 10-year period.

Heritage was criticized earlier this year when it received $52 million in a deal with taxpayer-funded Citizens Property Insurance. Heritage had donated $110,000 to Gov. Rick Scott's re-election campaign before the deal to take a portion of Citizen's policies was approved by Citizens' board.

MarineMax expansion

MarineMax, a recreational boat and yacht retailer, promises to invest $2 million in new office equipment and add 30 new employees over a three-year period when it relocates to the McCormick Drive complex.

The average wage for those new jobs will exceed $65,000, city officials said.

In exchange, the city will exempt half of the company's personal tangible property taxes for five years, an estimated $18,661.

MarineMax is already located in Clearwater, something that initially bothered Mayor George Cretekos until he learned that the company, which was leasing space at its current location, wasn't able to expand there and had considered leaving the city for new digs.

Incentives working

The incentives are "setting the stage for future development along U.S. 19," said Sanderson.

The city's financial incentive "tool box" was enhanced by Clearwater voters in 2012. The city first used these incentives last month when it reeled in 263 jobs and a reported $49 million investment from GE, which relocated the positions from New York.

On Monday, the council was unanimous in its support of the incentives. The relatively small tax breaks would be rewarded with nearly 100 high-paying jobs, they said. They also praised Skye Lane for building the parking garage.

The council is expected to formally approve the incentives at Thursday's meeting.

"This has been a priority of the council to do something along U.S. 19," Cretekos said.

Charlie Frago can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4159. You can follow him on Twitter @CharlieFrago

Comments
The Daystarter: Competency hearing for Seminole Heights slaying suspect; Is TIA a dining destination?; Clearwater looks to relocate City Hall; ‘Most Interesting Man’ in Tampa

The Daystarter: Competency hearing for Seminole Heights slaying suspect; Is TIA a dining destination?; Clearwater looks to relocate City Hall; ‘Most Interesting Man’ in Tampa

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.• Today’s high temperature tops out about 80 degrees, according to 10Weather WTSP. Our next rain chance is Friday when a weak front moves through. And next week brings the heat. Expect ...
Updated: 13 minutes ago
Forecast: Clear skies, pleasant conditions take hold over Tampa Bay

Forecast: Clear skies, pleasant conditions take hold over Tampa Bay

ST. PETERSBURG — Now that a cold front — which spawned a weak tornado in Ruskin — has departed, it leaves behind pleasant conditions across Tampa Bay.Relatively cool temperatures, clearing skies and low humidity will take hold until Friday, according...
Updated: 28 minutes ago
Competency hearing today for Seminole Heights slaying suspect

Competency hearing today for Seminole Heights slaying suspect

TAMPA — A judge could determine today whether the man accused in four Seminole Heights slayings is competent to stand trial.Attorneys for Howell Emanuel Donaldson III filed a formal request on Monday to ask that Circuit Judge Mark Wolfe appoint a psy...
Updated: 1 hour ago
ESPN’s Rece Davis on hosting College GameDay from the NFL draft

ESPN’s Rece Davis on hosting College GameDay from the NFL draft

When ESPN's Rece Davis heard about the idea for boosting the college football insight into the NFL draft, he didn't need any convincing."My immediate reaction was, this is a no-brainer," Davis said.Davis will spearhead the network's overdue look at t...
Updated: 1 hour ago
We tried the new restaurants at Tampa International Airport, and we're full

We tried the new restaurants at Tampa International Airport, and we're full

When Tampa International Airport debuted in 1971, each terminal had a newsstand and a snack bar, called something kicky like Snack Bar.
Updated: 1 hour ago
Carlton: The zoo is changing, but don’t worry. The meerkats are on it.

Carlton: The zoo is changing, but don’t worry. The meerkats are on it.

The other day I stopped to check on some progress. And got to see a meerkat, too. Progress in Tampa these days usually refers to the development of Vinikville — excuse me, Water Street Tampa — along the south edge of downtown. Or what w...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Clearwater looks to move out of City Hall to speed up Imagine Clearwater waterfront redevelopment

Clearwater looks to move out of City Hall to speed up Imagine Clearwater waterfront redevelopment

CLEARWATER — Elected officials have talked about relocating City Hall from the downtown bluff for a good 30 years. Now there’s a jolt of urgency to actually do it.Voters backed a referendum in November that essentially greenlighted the $55 million re...
Updated: 2 hours ago
He spent 17 years in prison. Now he’s a free man.

He spent 17 years in prison. Now he’s a free man.

TAMPA — Dwight DuBose walked out of the Orient Road Jail on Tuesday night after trading an orange jumpsuit for a brand new polo shirt and slacks.It was about 9 p.m. He flashed a broad smile and hug staff members of the Innocence Project of Florida wh...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Pennsylvania women guilty of golfing while black; 13 trucks line up in Detroit to stop suicide; Puerto Rican anger grows over lack of basic services; more in U.S. news

Pennsylvania women guilty of golfing while black; 13 trucks line up in Detroit to stop suicide; Puerto Rican anger grows over lack of basic services; more in U.S. news

PennsyvlaniaGuilty of golfing while blackBlack people have long complained about getting pulled over by police for "driving while black," or being eyed suspiciously by security guards for "shopping while black." Now, five women say they got into trou...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Toronto attacker likely hated women; 3 murdered film students had stumbled into Mexican gang battle; more in world news

Toronto attacker likely hated women; 3 murdered film students had stumbled into Mexican gang battle; more in world news

CanadaToronto attacker hated womenThe suspect in the deadly van attack in Toronto posted a chilling Facebook message just before plowing into a crowded sidewalk, authorities said Tuesday. The post indicated the computer studies graduate and ex-milita...
Updated: 11 hours ago