"Even with a 50 percent discount, the city will collect tens of thousands of dollars more money," said Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett. "That's not calculating the money the pilots and crew members will spend locally while they are staying in Sanford."
The center will produce about a dozen jobs paying an average of $100,000 a year (239 percent of the private sector wage in Seminole County), bring several hundred pilots and crew members to Sanford throughout the year for multi-week training, and is expected to lead to new development of a hotel and restaurants near the airport. Seminole County estimates the new center will have an annual economic impact of $16 million.
"This is exactly why we created the tax abatement program," said Sanford City Commissionr, Art Woodruff, who actively campaigned for the passage of the referendum. "This is the kind of project we were looking for."
Sanford Economic Development Director Bob Turk said Orange County, Ocoee, Maitland, Oviedo, Casselberry and Longwood have similar programs. But Sanford is not just competing with local communities for new business, Turk said. With its own international airport, and hundreds of acres of available commercial land, the city competes nationally.
"We've missed out on opportunities because we had no city-sponsored incentive program in place," said Turk.
Last year, Sanford was one of three cities a software company was considering for relocation of 1,000 new jobs.
"When the company compared incentives from cities in Texas and New York, Sanford had nothing to offer," Turk said.
To be sure, incentives aren't the only factor businesses use in determine where to relocate Turk said. The labor force, education facilities, the cost and availability of the land and buildings, and infrastructure cost are all components of a company's relocation decision matrix. But with no incentives program, cities like Sanford are starting from behind in attracting new businesses.
"The incentive program was very, very helpful to close the deal with Allegiant," said Larry Gouldthorpe, president of Airports Worldwide Inc.
"The airline has a good support system and infrastructure in Sanford, but it was never a foregone conclusion that this training center would be located in Florida," he said.
Cincinnati, Asheville, N.C., and Austin, Texas, were among the cities Allegiant was considering, Gouldthorpe said.
As the Sanford Airport Authority's private sector partner operating the domestic and international terminals, Airports Worldwide is responsible for recruiting airlines and maintaining their presence in Sanford.
Airports Worldwide also owns the land Allegiant will lease for the training center.
Kevin Spolski, whose company Spolski Construction Inc. will be the general contractor for the Allegiant project, said he's been working with Allegiant officials for nearly a year to bring the center to Sanford.
"Allegiant has a good relationship with Sanford, but bottom line, they are very conscious of price," said Spoliski, who noted Allegiant left Sanford's airport for for Orlando International Airport in February 2010, but returned a year later, in part because of the higher operating fees at OIA.
Under the program approved by 68 percent of voters, companies that make a substantial new investment in equipment or new construction and are classified as a targeted industry by Enterprise Florida are eligible for tax abatement.