ST Aerospace Interlocal Agreement may come to a vote tonight at BCC

Interim County Administrator Larry Newsom added to today’s Escambia County Commission agenda a discussion of the proposed Interlocal Agreement between the city of Pensacola and the county regarding ST Aerospace, the Singapore-based aerospace company that wants to bring its business and 300 jobs to the Pensacola International Airport.

The basics of the IA:

1. County will provide $8 million to fully fund the local share of the project. The funds will be available in four construction draws, the first due upon execution of the lease between STA and the city.
2. $3.2 million will be repaid by the city no later than 12/31/19 and will be secured with a pledge of the city’s Communications Services tax.
3. 36 months after the date and continuing for seven years city will have to pay county $2,286 per job per year below the 300 full-time jobs.
4. If STA ceases operation and the city cannot recruit a replacement tenant, the city will reimburse the county $4.8 million.
5. City will use reasonable efforts to secure $550,000 in various grants for workforce development.

Mayor Ashton Hayward spoke on the IA at this morning’s agenda review meeting.

“We have a golden opportunity to create a cluster of aviation in Escambia, Santa Rosa and Northwest Florida,” said Hayward. Recognizing Commissioner Lumon May’s concerns about job training, he added, “We will work tirelessly to get more dollars for workforce training.”

He asked the commissioners to get the interlocal agreement signed so he can work on the “deal points” with the lease. “I will lead the fight for more dollars from Tallahassee.”

Commissioner Gene Valentino supported the proposed agreement. “This is not the least expensive deal we’ve done, but it opens the door,” said Valentino. “That’s why it’s worth the investment.”

Hayward said he believed the IA was vital to future economic development. “This sends a message to our great state of Florida that Northwest Florida and Pensacola are serious about business.”

While he felt it was “fantastic” that the city brought forward the STA deal, Commissioner Stephen Barry questioned the Communications tax pledge and the vagueness of the language in the IA. He pointed out that the state legislature is looking at that tax and its future is in doubt.

“I don’t think it’s secure enough,” said Barry. “I would like to see a second source pledged.”

He also pointed out that “reasonable efforts” was a very subjective term and asked for more definitive language, such as “We’re going to do X, the city is going to do Y.”

Commissioner Grover Robinson and Chamber VP Scott Luth explained that the training grants were tied to having a signed lease with STA.

“If we can ink the jobs, we can find the dollars,” said Robinson.

Luth said that there are multiple “pots of money.” He has verbal commitments of $450,000 from the Quick Response Training program and $100,000 from Workforce Escarosa, but he needs an agreement with STA to proceed.

“Until we have the project creating the jobs, we can’t secure the dollars for workforce development,” said Luth.

The question as to whether the Interlocal Agreement will come up for a vote today was left open. Commissioner Barry, who pointed out this was only the second time the commission had discussed the IA, doesn’t want to vote on it. Valentino said he will make the motion tonight, but he will need a second. Robinson and May were noncommittal. Commissioner Wilson Robertson was absent this morning.