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Promising 300 Jobs 3 Years Ago, Aveo Engineering Bails on Airport Lease But Pledges to Remain in Flagler

| February 19, 2016

aveo engineering county airport

Gov. Rick Scott going over the script of the celebratory groundbreaking of Aveo Engineering at the Flagler County Airport in July 2013, with County Commissioner Nate McLaughlin and Economic Development Director Helga van Eckert. Jim Ulsamer, a member of the county’s economic development council, stands behind McLaughlin. Aveo Engineering did not stick to the script. (© FlaglerLive)

It’s been almost three years since Gov. Rick Scott came to Flagler to celebrate with county government the groundbreaking at Flagler County Airport of what was to ultimately be a 200,000 square foot facility for Aveo Engineering, a company that manufactures LED lights for planes and helicopters. The company was projected to invest $7 million locally.


The groundbreaking featured innumerable local government officials who were shuttled to the site by bus, including then-Sen. John Thrasher, the sheriff, Palm Coast’s mayor, several CEO’s of the county’s largest companies, and a dozen media outlets. The governor, standing next to Aveo CEO Christian Nielsen, touted the 300 jobs Nielsen was promising—the first 50 in 2013, the rest by 2016. So did Nielsen, who spoke of his “commitment here to not only change 300 lives but hopefully thousands more through the economic multiplier effect.” County officials basked in the glow of their jobs coup at a time when the local economy was still groaning from double-digit unemployment, then Scott, Christians and others grabbed their ceremonial shovels and turned over some dirt.

It would be the only dirt that would turn over on Aveo’s airport project.

Nielsen has decided not to build at the airport after all, Helga van Eckert, the county’s economic development director, confirmed Thursday, though county officials have known at least since last year that Aveo would no longer build at the airport, because the company doesn’t want to lease a facility. In September 2013, the county commission ratified a 30-year lease with Aveo at the airport, calling for monthly payments of $1,089 per acre, but starting only after Aveo would have been issued a certificate of occupancy. County officials had expected two buildings occupying up to 13 acres.

christian nielsen

Aveo’s Christian Nielsen celebrating in 2013. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Nielsen himself had signed the lease on Sept. 13, 2013. It’s not clear when specifically he broke the lease, which does not set out penalties for such a break. (See the lease below.) But in late spring 20915 he was still planning to build there, though he was going through regulatory hurdles with the FAA over the solar panels he wanted to use on the building. The FAA, after errors in Aveo’s original submission of plans to the FAA, cleared the project.

“When I spoke to Christian last week his position was they really want to make a long-term investment and a large investment,” van Eckert said Thursday, “so they’ve reconsidered, and they want to own, but they still want to be in Flagler County and they’re appreciative of the services that they’ve received.”

“Although it would have been nice to have them at the airport my main interest is that we bring business to the community,” van Eckert said, and that, she said, is still going to happen with Aveo. “Any time you have an ownership interest as opposed to a lease there’s an added level of commitment and security there.”

Nate McLaughlin, the current chairman of the county’s economic development council, said he was not aware of Aveo’s change of plans when initially asked about it Thursday, contacting a reporter later, McLaughlin said he was “disappointed” in the change, as he’d seen Aveo as one of the anchors of new businesses at the airport, along with the National Guard. But, he said, he was pleased with the prospect that Aveo would remain in the county, and preferred to focus on that eventuality. “A project that takes this amount of time and this amount of involvement to get off the ground might take some adjustments along the way,” McLaughlin said.

But so far almost all of Aveo’s promises have been just that: promises, with little else to show for it. Aveo still hasn’t settled on a permanent location in Flagler. Nielsen, who a company official said was in the Czech Republic, did not respond to an email Thursday. His relationship with county officials has not been smooth. He is known to be blustery and impulsive, and late last year county officials were straining to ensure that he would stay in Flagler, going so far as cautioning against media reports that could turn Nielsen off.

Various reasons have been offered for the company’s delays and changes of plan. Van Eckert was first interviewed about Aveo’s decision not to build at the airport in December.


An enduring pledge to remain in Flagler County and start manufacturing soon.


“The goal that we have is that they continue moving forward with their economic development efforts. They’re looking at expanding where they are,” Eckert said, referring to an office location on Palm Coast Parkway. No manufacturing takes place there. “They’re looking at another facility right now because they’re looking to do more with the solar as I understand it, in Flagler County, but I don’t think it’s going to be near the airport.” (Nielsen intended to power his facilities with solar energy.)

“The permit that they had to get from FAA for manufacturing hadn’t come through at that point yet,” van Eckert said, citing another reason for the delays. That FAA permit was reportedly secured last week, enabling Aveo to start manufacturing in the United States. “From Christian’s perspective it was timing and permitting, the solar that he wanted to do and those kinds of components that he wanted to have on,” van Eckert said.

“And cost,” Barbara Revels, who was still chairing the county’s economic development council in December, said. Referring to Christian, she said: “I think that he had an expectation of cost that he didn’t feel like—it was more unexpected. So I don’t know where he generated those ideas about what it would cost, but when he started getting numbers in, I think it took him in a different direction.” Revels added: “What he might can do in the Czech Republic and what he can do here is different, and I don’t know that he was prepared for that,” Revels said.

gov. rick scott aveo engineering

Looking for Aveo. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

“I was initially groomed for the project, but it was kind of like the dangling carrot,” Flagler Beach Architect Joseph Pozzuoli told the News-Journal last May. “But I never actually had a contract with them.” Even then Nielsen was describing the company’s local plans in buoyant terms.

Under Aveo’s original plans in 2013, the company was to receive financial incentives from Flagler County for every new job created, as well as incentives from state government’s economic development arm. Van Eckert said Nielsen ended up abandoning both sets of incentives.

Van Eckert in December was asked whether Nielsen had oversold the project. “I don’t think so,” she said. “It’s a great company they’re doing phenomenally well. I think it’s just a matter of attention that’s necessary in the local leadership that they have. So we’ll see. The gentleman that they had hired is no longer with them, the one that was put in charge of putting this thing in place.”

The 2013 lease agreement with Aveo Engineering.

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30 Responses for “Promising 300 Jobs 3 Years Ago, Aveo Engineering Bails on Airport Lease But Pledges to Remain in Flagler”

  1. Kendall says:

    Has anyone actually taken the time to quantify what van Eckert has actually brought to the table relative to jobs versus dollars spent not only to entice employers here, but also on her salary and that of her staff? I’m sure once calculated we will see little if no return on our investment.

    How many dollars has each job added as a result of her efforts cost us?

  2. THE VOICE OF REASON says:

    I’d say don’t hold your breath on these jobs. Anybody who can’t pull the trigger in three years is not going to.

  3. No Jobs for You says:

    Palm Toast………….. “The Little City that couldn’t .

  4. YankeeExPat says:

    As reported in the Miami herald

    STEVE BOUSQUET
    HERALD/TIMES TALLAHASSEE BUREAU

    MANY PROMISES, FEW JOBS

    Gov. Rick Scott has staked his political future on his ability to bring jobs to Florida, but the first comprehensive review of his efforts shows few successes and hundreds of unfulfilled promises.

    The Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times reviewed public information for 342 job-creation deals that involve various tax breaks since Scott took office in 2011. Among the findings:

    • Of the jobs Scott can influence most, only a fraction now exist. Scott has pledged $266 million in tax breaks and other incentives in return for 45,258 new jobs. But 96 percent of the jobs have yet to materialize, according to state data.

    INTERACTIVE DATABASE

    Rick Scott Jobs Tracker
    Gov. Rick Scott has staked his reputation and his re-election on his ability to create new jobs in Florida, but a case-by-case review of the use of incentives to attract jobs shows far more jobs promised than delivered.
    EXPLORE THE DATA
    • The total number of new jobs Scott ultimately might deliver doesn’t offset the jobs lost at companies with more than 100 workers in the same time period. Between January 2011 and November 2013, large Florida employers reported 49,163 layoffs, according to federal data.

    • Nearly 14 percent of Scott’s deals — 46 in all — have collapsed for various reasons, the state says, and more projects are dormant.

    • Florida offers tax breaks in most cases only when a company creates the jobs it promised, and $45 million sits idle waiting to be claimed by companies that have not yet reached hiring goals.

    • The jobs outlook isn’t better in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, where Scott inked deals to create 5,456 jobs in exchange for $25.2 million tax incentives and breaks. Jobs created to date: 61.

  5. Sherry says:

    Smoke and mirrors. . . I wonder just how much tax payers’ money was spent wining and dining those who have not made any concrete commitment at all. I would be greatly and pleasantly surprised if anything comes of this. Our BS governor sure loved the photo op though!

  6. scoff the cuff says:

    Here we go, again … back to the polls, again … now we vote, again … (sing it)

  7. Crusty Old Salt says:

    Gov. Scott certainly has not protected our environment in the process of trying to fulfill his false dream of creating jobs.

    http://www.tampabay.com/news/environment/under-scott-department-of-environmental-protection-undergoes-drastic-change/2202776

  8. confidential says:

    Typical whining and dinning of Bully Charlatan’s convincing the idiocy of the locals Who is Who and all paid by the taxpayers pockets.
    Meanwhile we, the local small business real job creators fade away into the same Who is Who obliviousness by the same bureaucrats in local government that assign our own taxpayers funded contracts to outside contractors of our cities and county and even outside FL with the excuse of saving few hundred dollars into thousands in contracts paid. in cities, county and schools contracts generating jobs and wealth elsewhere. Also the quasi government receiving tax benefits like FCCOC , hospital and college also contract elsewhere. Then they show off resourcing to the carnival false promises reported above with our funds. Remember Cakes Across America, Palm Coast Data, Embry Riddle and Ginn in the Airport and the list goes on…who’s pockets depleted …ours the taxpayer’s. On top of it they SLAPP sue us if we complain. Go figure! Looks pretty though Scott and all in the ground breaking..all paid by us.
    Don’t like it get out and vote for change.

  9. confidential says:

    Our Taxpayers funded contracts if assigned to local manufacturers and vendors will generate hundreds and thousands of jobs. But no, they go out on the excuse of saving peanuts into hundreds of thousands of value in vehicles, communications, machinery, tools, supplies, print, computers, even construction, etc, etc.
    Local Government and local sustained and tax and volunteer benefited organizations like FCCOC, College, Hospital contract almost all their services and supplies out of the area…then we wonder why we excel in high unemployment rates. They don’t absolutely care about resolving the unemployment but instead were graft is easier. We lost in our small business enough business to reduce 5 jobs in since 2008, so the same to our friendly competitors and so many other local service businesses when the housing market busted. Then we didn’t get much local government contracts and gave up and thru the years our tax funded contracts assigned elsewhere really make a dent in job creation. Further more they come up with all these BS economic development and BAC force funded by us while we see our tax dollars flying away to faraway pockets. When we try to address the issue with the Who is Who we are witch hunted, chatised or given frivolous excuses about the status quo.

  10. blondee says:

    …..yawn…….! I remember when Palm Coast Data promised us a bunch of jobs too.

  11. Wishful thinking says:

    How many of us are saying to ourselves ” we told you so”..?
    In most of the world ‘money talks … B. S. Walks’ except ,of course ,in Flagler County where it’s vice versa …

  12. tulip says:

    Flagler County officials seem to be able to be “conned” very easily by people wanting to start businesses with tax incentives, etc.. To make matters worse, it appears that contracts that were written for these businesses had no provisions in them to protect the citizens and Flagler county from losing a lot of money. I obviously don’t know what was written in them but it does seem that a company comes in, takes what they can get, don’t keep their promises and then leave and tough patooty to us. Like shampoo, Flagler county rinses and repeats the process.

    Not only that, the leaders look more and more foolish as they continue to “woo” this kind of thing and their credibility has been greatly damaged. The problem with a lot of this is that most of our commissioners are realtors, and not business and financial people who know how to run businesses and all the paperwork involved to make sure things are written up to protect both parties.

  13. Cyd Weeks says:

    All he had to risk was $250 on the lease? Wow. Not much incentive now is it? Who the heck wrote that thing up? $250 down and no penalty.

  14. Just me says:

    Confidential is right on the point of our local governments giving contracts to NON local company’s be shut out if they are not the lowest bidder. I know of times when thing went to bid a local company lost by a small % and it went to far away company’s. One such bid was in jax, and would have saved some 1K but would have no local service. So we the taxpayers would need to pay our employee to drive to Jax for every replacement and new parts. that’s NUTs. we should look to save $ by the lowest bidder BUT should also have a local discount to local companys if they come in slightly higher

  15. sick of failures says:

    @Kendall: you have an interesting question, that I would like to know the answer to. A quick search of the county’s budget for the fiscal years 2014 & 2015 show some very surprising numbers. For FY 14 their budget was $898,621 & funded 2.50 positions. In FY 15 their budget was increased to $1,300,000 & funded 4 positions. You may review these numbers at: http://www.flaglercounty.org/DocumentCenter/View/8309

    Nearly $220 million bucks in 2 years! That’s a lot of money…& we are getting what exactly for this?

  16. Run, Run, Run....As Fast As You Can says:

    I agree with you Kendell…..but unfortunately we will never know. It is unlikely all records will be considered if someone took the time to pull figures together. The only hope we have is to vote in 2016 and make sure we do no reelect any incumbents……if we don’t, we will get more of the same old. It is obvious the current board of county commission members like being led around by the nose by their staff and they all drink the same adult beverage. It is also disgraceful that we have a governor spending tax payers money to tour this state for photo ops like this one rather than being fiscally conservative and spending our tax dollars on what is most beneficial to all citizens of the state of Florida. When we have a county commissioner, Barbara Revels, who paid the largest ethcis fine in Flagler County history, and a Sheriff being fined $19k by the Ethics Commission, one would be crazy to bring their business to Flagler County….think about what we don’t know! All we hear are county officials saying everyone who challenges them is crazy and complaints are baseless….well, apparently that is not the case…just read about Sheriff Manfre in this weeks newspaper.

  17. Layla says:

    @Scuff the Cuff: The only song sung here on election day is low turnout and keep reelecting same old, same old, expecting something different.

  18. Layla says:

    Has anybody noticed that the new mall at Palm harbor is empty? Count the number of “For Lease” signs there and do the math. Taken to the cleaners again, Palm Coast.

    As long as you have the same people making these “deals”, nothing is going to change in Palm Coast. You must care enough to show up and vote.

  19. Jim says:

    in the year “20915”….. they still won’t be here!!!!

  20. My thoughts says:

    Which candidates are willing to dissolve Enterprise Flagler and the Tourist Development Council?

  21. Mark says:

    It’s all great until they get to know the real Palm Coast.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Layla says:

    February 20, 2016 at 10:27 am

    Has anybody noticed that the new mall at Palm harbor is empty? Count the number of “For Lease” signs there and do the math. Taken to the cleaners again, Palm Coast.

    As long as you have the same people making these “deals”, nothing is going to change in Palm Coast. You must care enough to show up and vote.

    I don’t see how why any would be against the Re-building of an old out of date and mostly empty shopping center. Or why they blame the city for it?

  23. Cindy C. says:

    ANOTHER LOST OPPORTUNITY BECAUSE FLAGLER DRAGS ITS FEET ~AND MAKES IT VERY HARD ON ANY REAL BUSINESS TO GET ITS FEET INT THE GROUND HERE!

  24. Cindy C. says:

    SO TRUE LAYLA!

  25. Cindy C. says:

    Cyd Weeks
    EXCATLY!!!

  26. confidential says:

    The new Palm Harbor City Island Walk is mostly empty simply because these investors sustained developers/builders are given the commercial lawns that no one else can get given their connections and if they are not able to rent all the units it doesn’t matter as use the project to claim a tax loss and if ultimately go belly up for not paying the loan there we go to bail them and the banks that loan them to build! It doesn’t matter to them because taxpayers end up paying both ways to those wealthy developers builders and the share holders as are “too big to fail”. Drive US1 North and ya’ll see half way to St Augustine a gorgeous new mall too languishing empty “zero units rented”
    When it comes to our taxpayers funded contracts in this county and its cities Just Me above knows how the graft grabbing rigged system works with the local government and semi government bureaucrats.

    Many years ago we even had a county attorney of back then, calling us on a complained bid that was less than the one the buyer gave to a St. Johns competitor… originally trying to intimidate us but ended actually after told of the evidenced truth, apologizing and promising to no avail that we will get next bid.
    Like I say hundreds of jobs will be created if all taxpayers generated contracts will be worked locally.
    But Nope…furthermore they have us funding the Governor and entourage fly and drive here, plus the tents and libations and other goodies paid to hear false promises of well connected charlatans.
    All while our local business were and are opened here without any tax benefits /exemptions and loop holes doing business for decades with the only government collaboration of the mailed bills to pay taxes.
    We forced to handsomely pay for Economic Development and BAC departments that the only thing they do is waste our taxes wining and dinning gatherings. How many jobs have these two created for the hundreds of thousand of our taxes wasted on them? Glad that local taxpayers outrage ended with the Flagler Enterprise waste several years go.
    Can please tell us how many jobs these FCED and BAC have created that are still active?

  27. gb says:

    And…. by the way, how’s that “Town Center” coming along? let me check, yep, a whole lot of empty fields….and some food trucks on Tuesday.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Palm Coast: Half the city wouldn’t and the other half voted in those who couldn’t.

  29. confidential says:

    Did I read somewhere that our Governor just gave for 2016 budget 250 millions to Enterprise Florida…supposedly to entice more business to settle here..? Such a bunch of crock. Our hard earned taxes to some dedicated pockets higher up. Then they blame the poor for our maladies.

  30. Anonymous says:

    So much for the civic responsibility of Big Business.

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