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Osceola misses deadline to approve contract with SkyWater for NeoCity

American-owned SkyWater Technology Foundry is poised to step in and take the lead role as managing partner for Osceola County's Center for Neovation.
American-owned SkyWater Technology Foundry is poised to step in and take the lead role as managing partner for Osceola County's Center for Neovation. (Osceola County)

The 60-day deadline for Osceola County and SkyWater Technology Foundry to approve a contract for the operations of the county’s Center for Neovation at Neocity came and went Monday, but County Manager Don Fisher said the two sides are still in negotiations.

“There’s nothing to be concerned about,” Fisher said. “We’re just working out the details of the agreement. We knew 60 days was a tight time frame, so now we’re moving to a 90-day time frame, which is more reasonable when you’re talking about an agreement of this scale.”

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The Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved the Memorandum of Understanding on Oct. 5 for the Minnesota-based chip maker to replace the University of Central Florida as the funding partner and operator for the county’s advanced fabrication center, or fab.

Fisher said the framework of the MOU is still intact. SkyWater has pledged operate the facility at full capacity, which could mean creating at least 220 jobs within five years. UCF would assign the remaining term of its 40-year lease to SkyWater, which acknowledges that it would also have to replace to the $50-60 million in funding from the university for operations and capital expenses, including additional tooling, over the first five years of the agreement.

SkyWater is the only U.S.-owned microchip manufacturer to earn accreditation from the Department of Defense as trusted foundry supplier.

SkyWater Chief Technology Officer Brad Ferguson previously told GrowthSpotter the firm’s first priority would be to restore the facility to its full operational levels so they can resume work on existing BRIDG government contracts that are worth millions of dollars.

Fisher had hoped to bring the contact to BOCC on Monday for approval, but he believes they’re about three to four weeks away. He could have asked commissioners to extend the negotiation period, but opted not to. That means the county could consider offers from competitors.

“They’re free to contact us,” Fisher said. “But we’ve made too much mileage now to jump to somebody else. Right now we’re concentrating on getting the SkyWater deal done.”

Fisher said one reason for the delay is that SkyWater officials are working with county officials to recover a $2.3 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration that was previously awarded but never received. “They’re working with us to make sure we don’t lose it,” Fisher said.

He expects to bring the contract to commissioners in January.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407) 420-6261, or tweet me at @byLauraKinsler. Follow GrowthSpotter on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

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