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City seeks grant for new jobs

The City Commission agreed Tuesday to apply for a state grant that would create 50 jobs for some of the city's poorest residents at the proposed headquarters for ABR Information Services Inc.

That's a third of the 150 jobs the city originally said could be created at ABR if the city received a state grant.

But officials of ABR, a leading national company that administers health care benefits for other companies, and the city decided to scale back the request.

The $337,000 grant requires the company to create up to 75 new jobs, reserving 50 of them for low- and moderate-income residents.

In return, the grant will pay for turn lanes on U.S. 19 at ABR's main entrance to the planned $30-million headquarters plaza, just south of the Anclote River. The company will have to pay for the turn lanes if the grant is not approved.

"I'm very pleased," said Commissioner David Archie, who has been working on ways to create job-training programs for the city's low-income residents as executive director of the Citizens Alliance for Progress.

"It's still a big step in the right direction," Archie said. "We're talking about 50 jobs that weren't there before. There may be other jobs created in the future. Now, it's a matter of getting funded."

The state economic development grant will be completed and sent to the Department of Community Affairs by Friday. The city will know if it receives the grant in May.

ABR's director of government affairs, John Popson, said he didn't know when the jobs, expected to be in data entry and customer service, would be available. He declined to comment on other details of the grant application.

"We're always interested in having quality people join our organization," Popson said. "It depends on state approval now."