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Kissimmee utility agrees to waive $1M power line cost for sensor project

Kissimmee utility agrees to waive $1M power line cost for sensor project
Kissimmee Utility Authority has agreed to waive the $1 million fee for extending a commerical powerline to the Florida Advanced Manufacturing Research Center. The center is expected to consume the same number of kilowatts as 1,500 homes. (Osceola County)

Kissimmee Utility Authority, an independent municipal electric company, has agreed to issue its largest ever economic development incentive to the Florida Advanced Manufacturing Research Center at Judge Farm.

The authority's board of directors voted last week to waive the cost of installing a commercial-grade electricity transmission line for the sensor project - a savings of up to $1 million. Chris Gent, vice president for corporate communications, said it is the largest incentive KUA has ever awarded for a single project.

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"These types of $200 million game-changing projects occur only once or twice in a county's history," Kissimmee Economic Development Director Belinda Kirkegard told the board, which unanimously approved the waiver.

"Both the city and county have active economic development departments and have judged this sensor project to be a tremendous opportunity for this community to attract high-wage jobs and spur economic growth," KUA President Jim Welsh said. "Our board has pledged its support for the project through this waiver to underwrite the cost of the electrical infrastructure needed to power the new facility."

KUA is a city-owned electric system established in 1901. It's the sixth-largest municipally owned utility in Florida and serves 58,000 customers. Gent said the utility transfers a percentage of its revenues to the city every year - this year the amount equals 7.6 percent.

Osceola County is spending $130 million to build the 100,000-square-foot research center and to develop a world-class research park around it on the 500-acre Judge Farm property. The center, expected to open in early 2017, will be the future home of ICAMR, the International Consortium for Advanced Manufacturing Research now based in downtown Kissimmee.

Melbourne-based Harris Corp. signed on officially as a partner, and it has a production contract with ICAMR. Osceola approved up to $67.5 million in bonds to fund the project, and UCF pledged $10 million toward the launch of the center. But Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a $10 million state appropriation for the project.

"As a community, we're about $160 million into this," County Manager Don Fisher said. "Since the state hasn't been moving forward to help, any cost savings we have can go into the building. So if this fee waiver is granted, we'll use the money to put tools into the building, capital improvements to the property. You've got my commitment it won't be going back into the coffers of Osceola County in any way shape or form."

Kirkegard told GrowthSpotter the incentive makes good business sense for KUA. The Judge Farm Research Park and sensor project could have the same type of economic impact to Central Florida as Lake Nona's Medical City, she said.

"That facility will consume the equivalent number of kilowatts as 1,500 homes," she said. Plus it will bring thousands of high-paying jobs to Osceola County.

During the recession, KUA had earmarked $700,000 in commercial line waivers for the city to use as economic development incentives for qualified target industries or new businesses opening in an enterprise zone or community redevelopment district. Kirkegard said the fund had a balance of $222,000.

The sensor project would have "zapped every single last penny of what was left of the original allocation of funds," she said. The KUA vote means that money would still be available for line waiver incentives in the city.

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

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