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Palm Coast’s Latest Invitation to Landowners: Come Build a Business Park With Us

| April 26, 2011

If you sketch it, maybe they'll build it: Palm Coast's business park vision.

If you sketch it, maybe they'll build it: Palm Coast's business park vision.

Palm Coast’s government is trying hard—very hard—to get economic activity grinding back to more normal levels. If some of the initiatives look like linguini-throwing at a wall, they nevertheless reflect a sustained attempt to keep ideas flowing.

On Tuesday, the city administration added one more idea to the mix: sending out invitations to interested land owners or developers who’d join in a potentially costly and risky partnership with the city to build a business park. The park would provide the sort of location where a sizable business could move in short order, making Palm Coast a desirable location for businesses looking to relocate or start up in buildings ranging in size from 50,000 square feet to 10 times that.

The lack of construction-ready land (or buildings) for just such a development is a recurring lament among local politicians and business leaders eager for economic development. “Construction ready”–what developer lingo refers to as “shovel-ready”–would mean that a prospective tenant could pull a building permit and start construction within 30 days.

“The City anticipates investing significant resources to develop ‘shovel ready’ sites in Palm Coast in partnership with private property owners,” a draft proposal reads. “Anticipated investment includes assistance in state and regional permitting, contracting with local professional staff (architects, engineers, environmental consultants, etc.), ad valorem property tax rebates, and waiving site plan/permitting fees. In exchange, the City anticipates that private property owners will share in the costs of the investment, cooperate in the marketing of their property to major employers, agree to a reasonable resale price, and repay portions of the City’s investment at a later date.”

Harder dollar figures were not mentioned when Beau Falgout, who heads the city’s economic development operation, presented the plan to the city council this morning. “The City’s investment will need to be secured through an acceptable instrument, such as a mortgage or lien on real property,” the draft proposal continued. “The amount of repayment and timing of repayment will depend on a variety of factors (i.e. number/type of jobs created, amount of capital investment, type and wage of jobs, etc.) to be determined during negotiations with selected responses.”

The proposal is a hybrid of a few recent ideas, some of which Palm Coast had decidedly opposed.

Enterprise Flagler, the public-private economic development partnership mostly funded by Palm Coast and the county government, attempted last year to build support for a property tax that would underwrite the cost of one or more “spec” buildings that the county would build as bait for new businesses. The initiative failed dismally, as opposition built faster than Enterprise Flagler could battle it: Taxpayers were not convinced that they should build commercial properties on the mere hope that the county could fill them, particularly considering the county’s poor record of doing so with buildings it owns.

Another reason the initiative failed is because of Palm Coast’s absent support. The city was not interested in supporting an initiative that would yield most of the presumed benefits to a county-controlled operation. Both Palm Coast and the county want to develop a business park, albeit each on its own turf. Aside from the difficulty and risk of paying for such a park’s development, the political competition is one of the factors retarding agreement on a county-wide strategy. A slew of recent, long-winded, county-wide economic development summits have not broken the political, financial or strategic stalemate.

Into that mix comes Palm Coast’s latest economic-development initiative, which Falgout described as an attempt to limit public exposure in a venture that would still have the city making substantial monetary investments. “How do we bridge the gap between having more-ready properties available for these prospects without going to the extent of a spec building,” Falgout asked, “because we know the investment is significant and the risk is also significant for the public side if that building ever gets occupied.”

In May, the city would invite property owners and developers to send in letters of intent that would describe their property, outline the property’s permit history and describe what it would take to make it construction-ready. The city would then evaluate the responses—assuming it receives enough of them to make the work viable—and evaluate what it calls its “degree of ownership” in the project. “After the ranking is completed, the city will negotiate an agreement with the top ranked respondent,” the draft proposal reads, or the next respondent if those talks fail, “until an agreement is reached. If budgetary authority allows, the City may negotiate agreements with multiple respondents.”

“Very little investment at this point until we know we’ve got the property owners interested,” City Manager Jim Landon said.

The council appeared interested. But there was a curious moment, indicative of the city administration’s broad assumptions of authority, between Mayor Jon Netts and Landon, when Landon proposed sending out the request for letters of intent without city council approval.

“Are you going to bring that to council Tuesday and then get our authorization to send out such letters?” Netts asked the manager.

Landon: “We don’t need city council’s authorization to send out such letters. What we’ll need is your blessing of any contract we have with them before we actually spend any resources on this.”

Jon Netts (© FlaglerLive)

Netts: “Well, I think it’d be worthwhile to having council at least give their imprimatur to this. I would prefer that you bring it to council and say, are you prepared for us to do—because if council doesn’t like the idea at all, then it is misleading to send out letters of request.”

“And Mr. Mayor,” council member Holsey Moorman said, in a rare contribution to council discussions, “also if you do it at council meeting you give the public the opportunity to speak on the issue.”

Landon: “More than happy to do that. It’s not required, but if you’d like to do that, let’s—”

“Yup,” Netts said.

When city council member Frank Meeker asked Mark Langello, a Bunnell developer, to chime in on the initiative, Langello was guarded. “The city would have to flush out the real money that you’d put into it,” he said. “Just putting money into something at this point is still very risky.”

The council could not take action on the matter on Tuesday because its meeting was a workshop, where no votes are taken. By opening the initiative to public input and the council’s “imprimatur” at next Tuesday’s council meeting, Netts, whose term is up this year (he has not officially declared his candidacy for reelection) may have been giving room to the politically unsettled question of government involvement in speculative business ventures.

The “business park partnership program” is the latest in a string of city initiatives aiming for economic development. A few months ago the city spent somewhere between $10,000 and $20,000 to mail postcard invitations to absentee property owners to give Palm Coast a new look. Based on an informal survey, the city found out by late March that 52 of the 10,000 recipients (a 0.5 percent rate of return) intended to move to Palm Coast sometime in the next 10 years.

There was Meeker’s odd idea of creating a business-hunting posse, offering $1,000 rewards, per job, to people who can prove that they’ve relocated jobs to Palm Coast. The posse has not left the stable. There was, and may still be, City Manager Jim Landon’s idea of building a $10 million city hall in Town Center as one way to stimulate the local economy, and create a new hub of activity in what remains a mostly beleaguered sprawl of vacant land. In March, the council approved starting a business assistance center with Daytona State College and SCORE, the small-business counseling firm, at a potential cost to the city of $50,000.

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9 Responses for “Palm Coast’s Latest Invitation to Landowners: Come Build a Business Park With Us”

  1. Justice for All says:

    As a tax payer, I am opposed to city/developer joint ventures. The last “business” declined to locate here because the City wouldn’t give them $2 million cash?! Now we want to throw in buildings? And how are the other businesses that have been given “incentives” doing? Where is a list of those businesses listing their status? Thankfully we can hold City Council accountable, who will hopefully do the same with Landon.

  2. johninc says:

    Glad to see local authorities at least are trying. In the 5 years I have lived here, I have seen very little activity form local authorities to develop business. Local leaders have had an “open door / closed mind” policy in the past. This particular idea is not a very good one; actually, this is just a repackaged bad idea from the past. Maybe we need new blood sitting in the chairs that make decisions, or maybe those sitting in the chairs need new ears to hear. In any case, I will applaude any sincere effort made local leadership at doing something constructive on the local economic and job fronts.

  3. Rob says:

    The possibilities sound much different on paper than when they finally shake out. Business is looking for incentives (hand outs) they expect the most for the least.

    The $1,000 question is where is and who is supplying the money? Speculators /developers seem to be sitting this one out as evidenced by the Enterprise Flagler and Flagler County efforts to attract development. How does the city with it limited funds expect to change the landscape?

    I had a little laugh with the comment …. And Mr. Mayor,” council member Holsey Moorman said, in a rare contribution to council discussions, “also if you do it at council meeting you give the public the opportunity to speak on the issue.”
    In the face of economic uncertainty, declining/ or flat real estate tax revenues, and a state executive branch that is slashing funding the town council doesn’t appear to heed the public when pursuing a new town hall. Why would this be any different?

    The amount of money spent on post cards sent to vacant property owners may have been better spent by creating packages to send to prospective business or developers to promote Palm Coast. One thing that building homes does is create the need for additional city services and the tax revenue that residential generates is marginal. Wouldn’t that be the same situation that this municipality is now facing, too many residential units and not enough commercial.

    I can’t wait for the budget hearings to begin.

  4. lawabidingcitizen says:

    Before spending any more of our money, put it on the ballot and let those who’ll be paying for everything decide the issue.

  5. PC Dad says:

    We need to stop all this business welfare. Give them a reason to come like putting the building in for them but make them pay us back. If they are not willing to do that, tell them to go somewhere else. Tired of all this welfare we give to buisinesses, tax cuts for them, breaks for the greedy real estate people. The citizens need to take back this community and tell businesses they work for us not the other way around.

  6. Jim J says:

    I agree – before spending any capital money put it on the ballot. That includes the $10million dollar city hall.


  7. SAW says:

    Yet more grandiose schemes and dreams, let the people VOTE it’s their money, don’t you get it people have very little faith in their elected officials and with good reason ?

  8. palmcoaster says:

    I for sure get concerned when new deals with developers are planned. We had enough of those and some cost us residents very dearly.
    I totally oppose to the 50,000 business assistance center with Daytona College. That entity is a for profit big time only and …education if one can afford it! Daytona College has taken away enough from us Palm coasters after receiving from ITT the free location and buildings that seat in Palm Coast Campus and in the last few years have the nerve to restrict the usage of the Palm Coast Parkway and Colbert Lane located auditorium, also donated by ITT exclusively to be the stage of our community artistic talents. Excuse; is too expensive to provide security to have it open to the public and da da da. Look at the DBC costly new facilities built in Daytona and the 1.5 million lent to the LSO…no $$ problem there for DBC right?
    So last I known that stage was only available to Palmcoaster’s usage in a very restricted manner . Why don’t they donate that stage to the City of Palm Coast , so can be utilized by the public as the original ITT purpose? Why city does not demand it. After all was for us Palmcoasters.
    I applaud the very good idea of Councilman Meeker about rewarding anyone should add; being a resident, government employee, elected official, business owner, realtor or anyone in Palm Coast or the county if they want to join in, with a $1,000 reward per job generated for a business they would bring to settle here and of course after business is running and the new employee/s are receiving their pay.
    Why is my total approval, because my own reality and the way we came to Palm Coast 1992. Invited by a friend, to then wonderful paradise. We arrived here brought our $$ possessions to benefit the banks our incomes and in two years and after a detailed market research, we bought an existing small business in the way to extinction and made it profitable, increasing its base up to 6.5 employees when the times were good till 2008. Now after this financial crisis our employee base is at one third of that….but we are still open (when others have closed doors) and recouping and maybe in the future also if hopefully our elected officials stop the outsourcing of our government contracts, will be able to go back to rehire. To stop outsourcing is vital now as the business generated by construction is no longer there and our local Cline Construction sure knows about that importance lobbyng hard so his local workers have a job.
    Most of our businesses customers and friendly competitors, have arrived in Palm Coast and this county by the same way….they were told by a friend, relative, advertising, employer or unions (NYCT) and the wealthy were magnetized by the developers. So kudos to Mr.Meeker!! Best around idea! Lets invite also our retired excellent professionals to help in this economic development and their ideas for the recognition and also the reward, when the goal to bring a job creating business materializes. Where the funds will come to pay the reward? simply from the increased revenue that the newly arrived business will create called, new tax revenue and just dedicate a percentage of it to the rewards and the events to honor our professional retirees volunteering on the endeavor….instead to waste 50,000/year in DBC or the over 80,000/year plus to Enterprise Flagler and their showy (who is who) pricey VIP’s. Imagine what just 50,000 new jobs created in this area will do and our budget nightmares will be over with. Kudos to Mr. Frank Meeker City of Palm Coast Councilman we should all support his idea!. Invite targeting the small businesses with our dream affordable golf courses, our boating, kayaking, water skiing, sailing, surfing, cycling, walkways and the beaches. Those are the ones that will come paying their own way, “without asking for millions (in taxpayers funds incentives, facilities and breaks)…just like we did”. We are not greedy, did not become millionaires, we work hard and pay all our bills, enjoy our home and comfortable living, help our community organizations every chance we can afford and still love wonderful Palm Coast and Flagler County. Go get them Mr. Meeker!

  9. SAW says:

    Wait just a minute now, are you sure about this as some of the buildings shown above look a lot like King B G’s airplane hangars at Flagler airport ?

    So if something like that is on your wish list, we know the county has at least one large deluxe hangar presently sitting around gathering dust.

    I am sure you can get a great deal on that one, it’s like brand new, and best of all it’s already been paid for with resident tax dollars.

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