A higher-end stone-cutting and sculpting company from Georgia—the former Soviet republic, not Florida’s next-door neighbor—will be opening shop on Palm Coast’s Hargrove Lane within a month or two in the launch of its U.S. distribution operation, with manufacturing planned in the future.
The family-owned company, Kamara Stone USA, will be run locally by Paata Asatiani, who’s lived in Palm Coast’s P Section for a couple of years. It intends to grow at the rate of 10 employees a year over the next three years. Its local investment is estimated at $1.5 million.
Earlier this week, the Flagler County Commission approved a $15,000 incentive package for Kamara equating to $125 per employee per year over the next three years, as long as the jobs are created and certified, and as long as they meet the average rather than median wage of $33,000 a year per employee. That’s company-wide, so it includes executive wages averaged in, which means actual wages of line workers will be somewhat lower.
The 30 jobs must be created within 36 months starting in January 2018, but the incentives will be paid over six years. The company states its average wage will be $40,000, according to the signed agreement with the county. The agreement extends to the end of December 2023, with a potential for two years’ extension.
According to Helga van Eckert, director of Flagler County’s economic development department, the company has 110 employees in Georgia, where it operates four quarries. “We don’t have any history on the company here because they would just be starting up,” van Eckert said, “so there is a little bit of a risk factor with respect to whether or not they’ll succeed, however for us since our incentive would be 100 percent performance based, there’s no risk whatsoever to the county.” (That’s true up to a point of course, but as is the case with all such incentives, the company could fail in the fourth or fifth year, so the longer-term risk of losing the incentive package is not zero.)
Van Eckert shepherded the project with commercial Realtor Cornelia Manfre in just the last two months.
Stones are to be imported from Georgia through the port of Jacksonville for distribution from Palm Coast. It was initially called Project Tempest, to guard its confidentiality, and was revealed at an economic development council meeting last week, ratified by the county commission earlier this week. “Sometimes our projects take two years to come to fruition, sometimes they take two days,” van Eckert said. “So while they’ll start off with distribution to kind of prove the market, they will then expand into actual manufacturing of materials.”
The company will be relying mostly on local talent. During those three years of presumed expansion, van Eckert said, “we would be helping them create the talent that they need locally because it’s very specific talent, so we’ll be looking to work with CareerSource to put a program in place.”
The work involves a range of products, including mosaics, street and interior stonework.
Kamara would not be entering virgin territory by any means: several small businesses operate stoneworks in the county. Barbara Revels, a member of the economic council, was concerned about that.
“We have so many granite and stone places throughout our community and other communities,” she asked Manfre, “and I know this would appear to be a maybe a higher end product, but do you know if they’ll be competitive with those companies?”
“In a sense they would because we’re competing within our own backyard, but their plans are quite grand,” Manfre said. “This will be a different type of product. It’s coming from the quarries in Georgia. The family owns four quarries over there now, they already export to Brazil, several other eastern European countries. So it’s a well-founded company, and it is just—I’m very excited about this, but they would compete somewhat, but they’re very different.”
The company will start operating at 3 Market Place in the industrial section of Hargrove Grade, and either expand into a building or build a building of its own. Kamara just presented at the home show in Jacksonville, taking possession of goods from a small container that arrived at Jacksonville port, and is expecting two more containers currently U.S. bound. Georgia is a South Carolina-size nation sandwiched between Russia, Turkey and the Black Sea. About a fifth opf the nation is under Russian occupation.
The County’s Agreement With Kamara Stone (2017) (Voluminous file)
If they are so great, why PC?
Maybe we can get Trump’s Communist Escort to perform the ribbon cutting,
I’m not so sure how I feel about this and I have a few questions about these folks and their businesses. 1) How will this competion affect our struggling, hard working businesses of this type already operating in the US and in flagler county and the state of Georgia? 2) Did the federal government already give them financial considerations like they have many of convenience stores/ gas stations which give these folks an unfair advantage in the locally established businesses who are struggling to compete already? 3) Are these folks becoming US citizens? 4) Will this new business be paying the same rate of property taxes the rest of us businesses are paying, and what is the county giving in other tax breaks, or incentives on building permits, or the relaxing of county or municipal regulations, that would put their competition at a disadvantage that they forgot to mention? 5) Do the county officials realize that by giving incentives they are putting existing businesses at risk of not being able to compete with new companies who has lower over head because of these financial breaks given by government?
I think it’s a good thing that a new company wants to come to Palm Coast. The incentive package seems modest and measured to results. The fact that it comes from a former communist country in Europe says a good bit of the success they’re having there as well as their hopes for success in Florida. That they could have chosen many counties surrounding Jax Port but they’re choosing Flagler reflects well on both Ms. van Eckert and on the Realtor who must have convinced them that Flagler can meet their needs, so congratulations are in order, I think. Let’s hope the deal goes through and Kamara becomes a good neighbor, employer, and partner in growing our economy.
OMG can we get anything but ‘tearing up & destroying the earth’ companies here??? How about Amazon looking for a new 2nd headquarters – why don’t we compete for THEM to come here? They already have a warehouse hub in Jacksonville!!!
There are many many Russians living and working here and many many Russians who have bought lots of properties here and make good money. That doesn’t bother me, as long as they are legal and not living off the U.S. Government. In fact I think more foreigners own prime property all over the USA than Americans do and that does bother me. So if this new company succeeds and provides some jobs, that’s ok. However, we’ve had a number of new businesses bome here, promise jobs, take advantage of the incententives and then close up or go out of business without living up to their part of the bargain, so I get skittish when I hear of new ones coming and making grandiose promises. Time will tell
Spoken like a true county economic development employee Algeron. Bring in new businesses no matter what the cost to us taxpayers and the unfair competition you create for the existing businesses trying to survive here already.