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Mystery company wins tax breaks for expansion

Pinellas County commissioners voted Tuesday to give $1-million in tax breaks to a local company that plans to build a new facility in the county. The expansion could create up to 1,700 jobs within the next four years, the commission was told.

County officials said they weren't allowed to identify the company, but by all indications, it appears to be Tech Data Corp. of Clearwater. The project, as described in a memo from the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Economic Development Council, would include construction of a 240,000-square-foot facility at a cost of about $23-million.

Tech Data wouldn't say Tuesday if it is the company seeking tax incentives. "We at Tech Data have no comment whatsoever on this situation," said Jeffery Howells, the company's chief financial officer.

Still, the company previously announced it is spending more than $20-million for the construction of a 240,000-square-foot office building at its complex near St. Petersburg/Clearwater International Airport.

Howells said that the company does look at available tax subsidies wherever it expands operations. And to say the company is growing is an understatement: In the past year, Tech Data has proposed adding at least four new facilities around the country. These include 400,000-square-foot distribution centers in Fontana, Calif., and southern New Jersey.

Those two proposed facilities are further evidence that the tax application is Tech Data's. The memo said the unnamed company was "considering whether to expand their corporate headquarters in Pinellas or build a new regional headquarters in New Jersey or California.'"

The memo described the local company as a major employer with 2,600 employees. Tech Data has about 3,400 employees, most of whom work in Clearwater.

The 1,700 new jobs created by this project would pay an average of $31,448, according to the memo. Under state law, the company is allowed to request confidentiality when it makes such an application.

Under the tax refund program, the tax breaks are spread out over four years. Pinellas County would chip in $1-million, or 20 percent of a total of $5-million, if the unnamed company locates the new jobs here. The state would pay the rest.

"They don't get any money unless and until they actually bring the jobs here," said Clarence Hulse, senior economic development specialist for the county's Industry Council.