Palm Coast Approves Project Continental Incentive Package Unanimously

No egos – just teamwork. Enterprise Flagler, Enterprise Florida, State of Florida, City of Palm Coast, Chamber of Commerce, and key community leaders pulled together to turn lemons into lemonade.

Palm Coast, Florida – September 16, 2008 – Those who’ve read for any length of time know my position on our area’s critical need for quality economic development. Past efforts toward a cohesive recruiting strategy have not been successful. In many cases, egos got in the way. In others, elected or appointed officials were simply ill equipped to grasp the need for sustained development. When the Palm Coast City Council approved the incentive package for Project Continental, it signaled a new era of cooperation had begun, and not too soon.
Not many months ago, Palm Coast was on the verge of losing 1000 jobs. The area’s largest private sector employer planned to consolidate operations from three states into one location. They required immediate space for additional jobs plus the ability to expand through new construction. With no available existing space to satisfy the company’s immediate need, Palm Coast was initially ranked third. Only a few months later, Palm Coast is in the best position to get the nod from Project Continental. How did this happen?
It began when Tom Cooley (Enterprise Flagler) was approached by the company’s site selection consultant. Recognizing the magnitude of the two possible outcomes (lose 1000 jobs or gain 700 jobs), Tom immediately enlisted support from city manager Landon, county manager Coffey, Enterprise Florida, and the Governor’s office. To satisfy the immediate space need, the city offered to lease the City Hall building, agreeing to vacate as early as November 1. This, in addition to a rich but well conceived incentive package with contribution at the city, county, and state levels prompted the site selection consultant to respond, "Wow."
So we have two separate stories. The first is the high likelihood that the company (read "Palm Coast Data’s parent, AMREP") will not only remain in Palm Coast, but will expand its local labor force by 70%. The second, and possibly more far reaching story is about the across the board support for economic development and demonstrated ability for both government and business leaders to work cooperatively and to think outside the box, while leaving their own egos on the sidelines.
The entire community showed its support. During the public comment portion, the expected representatives from county government, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Realtors’ Association, spoke in favor of the resolution. So too did a cross section of taxpaying, voting citizens with not a negative word. "A video of today’s council meeting should be sent to any enquiring site selection consultant in the future," councilwoman DiStefano commented to me during a meeting break following the vote.
A few words about the incentive package:
  • While Landon could not guarantee that the company would follow through on its promised expansion, even if they accepted the incentive offers, the city’s risks are low. The tax abatement only kicks in with new construction. If there is no new construction, there will be no tax abatement.
  • City cash expenditures are limited to moving expenses and the real estate commission related to the rent/sale of city hall (commission rate reduced to $50 thousand through negotiation). These costs will be offset by the expected $1.5 million in permitting and impact fees expected from the new construction.
Should Palm Coast win, as it likely will, the benefits are astounding:
  • Unemployment will drop
  • New businesses start-ups will increase
  • A good hunk of excess and presently vacant office space will be leased by the city
  • Demand for residential living units will rise
  • Palm Coast will now appear on other site selection consultants’ radar
  • Having won one battle, future battles will be better fought and more likely won
  • People will stop asking me "who is Enterprise Flagler?" and "What have they done."
Many contributed to this successful effort, but Tom Cooley and Jim Landon deserve special recognition.
For more information about the background, the incentive package, or expected economic impact, read the two previous reports by Go.Toby (story) and (follow up commentary).
12 replies
  1. George Meegan
    George Meegan says:

    Now Everyone will want deals on assesments

    Wow that was easy, and opens pandoras box for the many others looking to get in on the no tax deals of Palm Coast. Maybe those that are here will threaten to leave and get a tax deal. We the assessed will now be paying for the services that the new construction will bring. Thanks, to every tax payer in Palm Coast, you can give the credit to Landon and Coffee but we will have to pay the cash. Just wondering who is the Realtor thats handling the leases?

  2. gary
    gary says:

    pros and cons

    With the contruction slowing in palm coast, the palm coast can not count on retires social security checks and tourists to inject the local ecomony. There is pros and cons to just about everything but keeping jobs in palm coast is priority one. Business’s make jobs not babies! i think palm coast made a good move! People need to realize palm coast will be getting less in taxes to run the town. Just look at the lastest assessments. lots in the conservatory are assessed 1/3 less than last year. Most other propertys i think will be assessed lower in palm coast. The city of Palm coast may be soon stuggling themselves. If the business’s coming in or staying dont pay high wages,its better than having no job!

  3. George Meegan
    George Meegan says:

    We the people

    Problem is Palm Coast did not have to give them this deal. They had no intention in staying in Colorado or Illinois. The Purchase of Palm Coast Data was seen as a way for them to get to a lower cost operation due to lower wages and state taxes. The motivation here was for Palm Coast to justify moving into new City Hall in Town Center as quick as posible. The tax assesments being waived is a giveaway of the property owners money not the cities revenues. The further cost for the new city hall will be another cost that will be taking more from us. These things are being done without tax payer input and vote, as all the city council members are in agreement before they hear from the citizens of Palm Coast in a public vote. You simply are placing yourself in with the old boys (and girls) that think they are speaking for the rest of us as they do deals behind closed doors in violation of state open meeting laws. We need a wakening up at the City Government, as this is a democracy not a monarchy.

  4. Sarah Ulrich
    Sarah Ulrich says:

    Another Reply to George

    Amazing! You must be in the retiree club, George. I think the city would show a landslide vote, if brought before the people as you think it should be. Our unemployment is over 10% and you think the city doesn’t need new jobs? I don’t care what we have to do to get them, there are citizens out there that cannot find employment, because time after time, new business have been voted down by the city council (which is also part of the retiree club). If you are living off of SS and a pension, you may not realize that the rest of us have to still earn a living while paying for your SS benifits that we will not be able to enjoy ourselves. The "Greatest Generation" needs to think of those coming after and the sacrifices WE are making for them. The city needed these jobs desperately and finally realized that fact.

  5. George meegan
    George meegan says:

    Yes put it up for a vote,That’s Democratic

    The jobs that will be filled at PCD and the resulting construction jobs are not exactly high paying long term jobs. The technology of the internet is making magazines history just like newspapers. So PCD may not have a future. Those that need work that have a professional background won’t be served by PCD or the short term construction. We do need jobs and a industrial/commercial presents, but a little higher technical level would give livable salaries. I’m not for stopping anything that the majority want, just think the un democratic way this is being done it a crime. As ronald Reagan said "tear down that wall" City hall. Open the meetings as the law requires and listen to the people by putting these things up for a vote. STOP THE CLOSED DOOR DEALS!

  6. Sarah Ulrich
    Sarah Ulrich says:

    Agree to Disagree

    They may not be high paying jobs, but at least they are something. I would rather have low-wage workers in Palm Coast, than unemployed workers. We have such a housing problem right with all of the foreclosures and short-sales on the market, these jobs should halp the average-joe keep his home. Many construction workers in the area have been struggling for the past few years as the demand for new housing has drastically reduced. Plus, more money will be coming into the county, because those families who do get jobs there will be spending it here on daily expenses. It would be nice to have higher paying jobs coming into the city, but I won’t discriminate against any jobs or the workers. True, we didn’t get a vote on whether or not the city gave allowences and let the company come here, but I don’t beleive that is standard practice in any cities. Many citizens did go to the meeting and express their support for the company though. This is rather unusual, because most of the time the citizens who go to a council meeting with a specific purpose in mind is because they oppose whatever is being offered. Maybe we will get some other posts to see what the general public of this city thinks?

  7. George Meegan
    George Meegan says:

    Beth who?

    At least use your full name so we all know who you are. The thought of moving has occured to me. The neighborhood (Palm Coast) is probably not where I want to stay forever. The people here seem to withdrawn from everything including politics, probably because they moved here for the quietness of a small City. Otherwise they would be in Miami or some place with more action. I assume with you it’s just what you want, your happy with everything and that’s fine. I see things from my observations of past occurances here in Palm Coast, that support my conclusions. Thank you for your "options list" but you seem to forget there just your opinions and everyone has them, which they can express when ever they want in this country.

  8. Linda Wood
    Linda Wood says:


    Kable had no intention of keeping its facilities open in Boulder or Mt. Morris.
    Though Kable/AmRep bought Palm Coast, it put Palm Coast executives in key management positions throughout the company. You think these execs want to relocate? They’ve been managing staff and depts from afar ever since the purchase. Palm Coast definitely did not have to bend so far over to lure this business.

  9. Toby
    Toby says:

    Reply to George

    If this deal were not struck, I guarantee two things would happen very soon:
    1. Your property taxes would rise
    2. The value of your property would fall
    Everything is connected. Try to think of this as an investment rather than an expense, because that is what it is. We are in a competitive environment. Are you willing to accept the consequences of Palm Coast Data moving 1000 jobs from Palm Coast? If we do not offer incentives, they will go elsewhere. Is this a bribe or is it just negotiations from a strong position? It doesn’t matter. Think back on your early dating years. How did you compete with the quarterback? Don’t tell me that you went to your first prom in a tee shirt and shorts. You put on your best front. That is precisely what we MUST do. If not we will be sitting home without a date.

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