MELBOURNE, Fla. - A large aerospace company is planning an operation at Melbourne International Airport that could mean 1,800 new jobs paying an average of $100,000 a year, according to documents filed Wednesday with Brevard County.
The deal, known as "Project Magellan," also would include a half-billion-dollar capital investment — buildings, machinery, etc. — by 2020. That's when the business would be in full operation, Local 6 News partner Florida Today reported.
If the project goes through, it would further solidify the airport's image as a growing aerospace and aviation industrial power in Florida and the United States. The airport already has major expansions taking place with Northrop Grumman Corp. and Embraer Executive Jets.
Officials with detailed information about the project aren't disclosing the company's name.
"It's potentially one of the largest economic-development projects in the United States" during the last several years, said Greg Weiner, senior director of business development for the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast, which assisted the company in developing a package of proposed state and local financial incentives.
Brevard County officials released information about the project on Wednesday, as part of the agenda for next Tuesday's County Commission meeting, at which county financial incentives will be discussed.
The company is seeking an undisclosed package of incentives from the state.
Although the terms of the Project Magellan deal have not been disclosed, as of now, the company involved has asked for a relatively small amount of financial support from the county — grants of $71,000 for the first phase and $134,000 for the second phase to help pay for "impact fees" charged for new construction. The County Commission on Tuesday is scheduled to vote on whether to approve those grants.
County commissioners will be briefed on the project in the coming days but will be asked to sign confidentiality agreements, Weiner said.
He said the company selected Melbourne for the project ahead of other Florida communities and Texas, which also sought it.
"This was an intensely competitive deal that has been around for over a year," Weiner said.
He said he could not comment on whether the company has a local presence, but indicated that this is "clearly a new activity" for the company.
Weiner said it's likely that Florida Gov. Rick Scott would be involved in announcing specifics about the project. The state is providing a large portion of the incentives, supplemented by proposed incentives from Brevard County, the city of Melbourne, the airport and the Economic Development Commission, Weiner said.
On Wednesday, the Melbourne Airport Authority held a special meeting, and unanimously agreed to pay up to $75,000 to the Orlando law firm Holland & Knight to represent the airport's interests for Project Magellan. The outside representation was needed, airport authority officials said, because its own firm, GrayRobinson, also is involved with one of the parties involved in Project Magellan.
After the meeting, William Potter, chairman of the airport authority board, offered few details on Project Magellan.
"It's a large, industrial project that is considering locating here at the airport," Potter said. "It's an extremely complex transaction, more than 1,000 pages of agreements."
Potter said it's a project in which all the necessary approvals could be completed within six months.
Documents provided to county commissioners in advance of a scheduled discussion of Project Magellan on Tuesday indicate that the project involved "aircraft development work," and would be broken down into two phases:
• Phase 1 would consist of construction of a 216,000-square-foot building and creating 600 jobs by the end of 2015.
• Phase 2 would include construction of an additional 500,000-square-foot building and an additional 1,200 jobs.
The 1,800 direct jobs, as outlined in Project Magellan's paperwork filed with the county, will lead to the further economic reverberations a development of this size could mean to the area. According to an analysis put together by the Economic Development Commission:
• The 1,800 direct jobs would lead to at least 549 spinoff jobs in the area. Those spinoff jobs would be at such place as dry cleaners, restaurants and convenience stores.
• The $180 million direct wage impact would mean an additional $61 million in wages for the area, creating a total annual payroll of $241 million for the combined 2,349 direct and spinoff jobs.
• The total annual contribution to the county's economy would be an estimated $294 million. That figure represents about 1.6 percent of Brevard County's total economy of $18.1 billion, based on latest-available federal estimates.
Other impacts on this many jobs would involve schools, volunteers organizations, housing and property taxes.
"It's typically a big deal if a firm adds 100 or 200 jobs to the local economy. Something of this magnitude could end up bringing a billion dollars to the county," said Mike Slotkin, an economics professor at the Florida Institute of Technology.
Slotkin said that when large technology firms move to a region, they bring an enormous talent pool, and that this influx of skilled workers can spur further business development, because companies within the same industry tend to cluster together.
That's what happened in California's Silicon Valley and North Carolina's Research Triangle, and Slotkin believes it could happen here if the Project Magellan deal pans out.
"There's always a big difference between talk and action when it comes to development, so let's keep our fingers crossed that it happens," Slotkin said.
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