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Tampa, Hillsborough officials approve $450,000 subsidy package tied to 500 new jobs

TAMPA — A month after a million-dollar business subsidy deal unraveled amid confusion, city and county elected officials approved $450,000 in incentives Thursday for a different, unnamed company considering expansion.

The company, shielded from disclosure under Florida's qualified target industries program, is a film, video and print business with 50 employees in Tampa now.

It proposes to spend $5 million on new facilities and hire 500 new employees starting in 2014, resulting in a projected annual payroll of nearly $25 million. At full capacity, its operations could require 100,000 square feet of space and would house human resources, finance, accounting and information technology employees.

But the company has told economic development recruiters that Tampa is competing with communities in New York and Georgia for the new jobs. Its written application indicates it is evaluating locations here.

If it does end up inside Tampa, the city and Hillsborough County would split the incentive package. The city's share would range from $225,000 to $345,000, depending on whether it went to one of Tampa's seven community redevelopment areas.

If it were to locate in an unincorporated area, Hillsborough County would pay the subsidy.

The incentives — part of a larger package that also would include money from the state — would be paid out between 2015 and 2023, and only after the promised jobs were created, officials say.

In July, local officials approved a million-dollar package of incentives for a large financial services firm whose name was not disclosed at the time of the vote.

A few days later, PricewaterhouseCoopers confirmed that it was the firm and said it planned to build a new $78 million facility in West Shore.

But the firm later declined the economic incentive money after one of its executives said it never contemplated moving its existing operations out of Tampa, contrary to indications made before the vote. Although it withdrew its request for the incentive money, the firm said its local expansion will go ahead.

In Thursday's project, City Council members said they received the request a week ahead of time, not the few days they had to consider the PricewaterhouseCoopers proposal.

The unnamed media company also confirmed to local officials this week that the information it had provided in support of its application is correct. And it provided projected cash-flow information, giving local officials an indication of the payroll the local contribution would support.

Both the City Council and County Commission approved the plan without opposition.

"I feel very comfortable, I think we all do, in supporting this," said council member Mary Mulhern, who had questioned the quick approval sought for the PricewaterhouseCoopers incentives.

Some of local money comes from what's known as the premier business incentive program, used to sweeten the subsidy for particularly attractive business prospects. County approval was immediately preceded by a unanimous commission vote to temporarily lower the average salary threshold a company must meet to qualify for that money to 115 percent of average wages for the area, or at least $45,834. Typically, companies must offer salaries for new jobs getting created averaging 150 percent of the average area pay.

Separate from that vote, county commissioners also unanimously agreed Thursday to cut in half the cost of all building permits through 2012 as part of its efforts to spur economic development.

"I enthusiastically make the motion," said Commissioner Sandy Murman.

Bill Varian can be reached at (813) 226-3387 or varian@sptimes.com. Richard Danielson can be reached at danielson@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3403.

Tampa, Hillsborough officials approve $450,000 subsidy package tied to 500 new jobs 09/08/11 [Last modified: Friday, September 9, 2011 12:19am]

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