Published Friday, June 3, 2016

Three Palm Beach County companies are set to receive hundreds of thousands in state and local incentives to expand their operations and generate more than 1,100 new jobs.

The projects would be a significant boost to the local economy, and all of the new jobs would be in high-paying, targeted industries, such as aerospace and biotech, said Kelly Smallridge, president and CEO of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County.

"Incentives are offered by all 50 states, and they are only offered in the event a company is looking at other sites in other states," said Smallridge, whose organization seeks to recruit and retain businesses. "It's the equivalent to offering an athlete a scholarship. It's the nature of the game."

The Palm Beach County Commission is set to approve its share of the incentive packages on Tuesday.

Two of the projects are in Boca Raton.

A company, known by the code name Project P2P, is expected to create 838 new jobs with an median annual wage of $55,000.

The unidentified company already operating in Palm Beach County is planning to spend $15 million to a buy and renovate a new headquarters building. State law allows negotiations to be done confidentially in an attempt to preserve a company's trade secrets.

The state is offering a $6.1 million incentive package to aid in the company's expansion, which includes nearly $1.2 million in incentives and tax abatements shared equally by Palm Beach County and Boca Raton.

If a business agrees to the terms of an incentive package after it is given initial approval, the company's name is revealed before county commissioners give final approval, Smallridge said.

KRS Global Biotechnology Inc., a Boca Raton pharmaceutical firm, is set to receive an $800,000 incentive package, including $200,000 from Boca Raton and $160,000 from Palm Beach County. The company is planning to expand its operations, spending $28 million to create 160 new jobs with a median salary of $58,000.

A third project in Palm Beach Gardens, known as Project Falcon, is set to receive an $800,000 incentive package with Palm Beach Gardens and Palm Beach County each paying $80,000 and the state funding the remainder.

That company plans to renovate a building and generate 200 new jobs with an annual median wage of $66,000.

Commissioner Steven Abrams, who represents Boca Raton, said incentives are critical and have greatly benefited his district.

"All the projects are thoroughly vetted," he said. "The companies do not receive any of the funding until they have met their hiring goals under the contract."

But critics have argued the incentives amount to corporate welfare and would be better spent on other priorities, such as education. The Florida Legislature eliminated dollars this past session for the quick closing action fund, a pool of money to offer incentives to businesses looking to expand or locate in Florida.

Smallridge said these are some of the last projects that will receive dollars from the fund unless it is replenished.

"That is definitely having a negative impact on Palm Beach County and hurting our ability to attract large corporate clients," she said. "Nonetheless we are still very active."

SunSentinel, 561-243-6634 or @SkylerSwisher



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