Board also amends policy guidelines to offer more flexibility with incentives offered for jobs created
With lots of praise for PGT Innovations of Nokomis, the Sarasota County Commission unanimously has approved a $129,000 economic development incentive grant to enable the company’s new acquisition — WinDoor Inc., which has been based in Orlando — to relocate to Sarasota County.
As Destin Wells, vice president of the Economic Development Corp. of Sarasota County, explained the details to the commissioners on Oct. 7, WinDoor is expected to offer 167 new jobs, with 43 of those targeted for the incentive. The latter jobs would have an average annual wage of $45,105, which would be just above the 100% mark of the average yearly pay in the North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), Wells said.
“One hundred sixty-seven new jobs is very impactful,” Wells pointed out. “Those jobs support families.”
An Oct. 7 staff memo provided to the board members in advance of the meeting noted that 100% of the MSA average wage, as of Jan. 1, is $44,541.
Originally, Wells said, WinDoor was dubbed “Project Purple.” However, he continued, the company elected to forgo the veil of confidentiality usually accorded to firms during the economic development incentive application process.
The staff memo explained that WinDoor “is a leading manufacturer and supplier of residential impact-resistant window and door products. The Company offers a variety of high integrity window and door lines. Hurricane protection, security against intruders, noise reduction, UV filtering, energy efficiency affordability and style are some of the attributes of their current products,” which are sold in the United States and international markets.
Wells further noted that PGT is the largest manufacturer in Sarasota County and that it is “in fact one of our largest private-sector employers in the county …”
After PGT acquired WinDoor, Wells continued, PGT had three options: It could keep the company in Orlando; it could consolidate WinDoor with other PGT operations in Hialeah; or it could expand its Venice facility to make room for WinDoor’s operations.
PGT elected to go with reconfiguring 90,000 square feet of its Venice facility and adding 15,000 square feet to that, for a total capital investment of $1.7 million, Destin added.
The county’s economic incentive would be paid out over nine years, he noted, but only after county staff has ensured that WinDoor has complied with the terms of the agreement.
“It’s important for the sake of context to understand what’s happened with [PGT itself],” Wells pointed out.
In 2010, PGT received an ad valorem tax exemption from the county to create 400 jobs at an average wage of $29,500. However, the company ended up with 946 jobs at an average wage of $31,743.55. “This company over-performs,” Wells summed up the results.
Although the Economic Development Corp. (EDC) generally looks at wages as an indicator of the quality of jobs, Wells continued, in PGT’s case, it is important to factor in its compensation package for employees. The company offers onsite health care services for workers and their families; onsite childcare; a tuition reimbursement program; an employee stock purchase plan; and medical and dental insurance.
Policy guidelines adjustment
As part of the Oct. 7 agenda item, Rob Lewis, director of intergovernmental relations for the county, and Wells pointed out that they also were seeking an amendment to the county’s economic development incentive policy guidelines, which had not been revised since 2017. Instead of calling for incentives for jobs with salaries that represent 115% of the MSA’s average annual wage, Lewis and Wells explained, the proposal was to modify the guidelines to allow 100% of the MSA average to be used. For each job created at that level, a company would be eligible to receive a maximum incentive of $3,000, the revised policy says. If the average annual wage of new jobs is equal to 115% of the average annual wage of the MSA at the time of submittal of an application, the revision continues, then the maximum incentive would be $4,000 per job. Finally, if the average annual salary of new jobs is equal to 150% of the average annual wage of the MSA at the time, then a company could win a maximum incentive of $5,000 per new job.
Showing the board members a chart with details about incentives commissioners awarded companies between 2010 and 2017 — prior to the last policy revision — Wells noted that a number of them had wages below the 100% MSA mark. Further, he said, amending the county policy would allow the EDC more flexibility in offering incentives to qualified companies.
“I’m immensely proud of this company,” Commissioner Alan Maio said of PGT.
“They’ve demonstrated over and over that they keep their word,” Commissioner Nancy Detert noted of PGT executives. “And they treat their employees well.”
“I’m no fan of economic incentives,” Commissioner Christian Ziegler pointed out. Nonetheless, he said, he concurred with his colleagues about PGT’s leaders. “They’ve delivered not just for their employees … but also for our community.”
Especially given the negative impact the novel coronavirus has had on the economy, Ziegler continued, PTG is “doing very, very well. … This is a premier employer.”
Maio made the motions to amend the economic development incentive policy guidelines in regard to the MSA wage level and to approve the funds for WinDoor, which will be pegged to the job creation and salaries.
With the latter motion, Maio pointed out that if all the other companies to which commissioners had awarded economic incentives in the past had performed as “appropriately as [PGT], we and the commission before us would have had a lot less problems in the years past.”
Referring to WinDoor’s executives, Maio said to Wells, “You tell these folks that we want ’em here.”
Chair Michael Moran then added, “It’s no pressure to any future applicant,” but WinDoor’s waiver of its confidentiality in the process was another factor in the board’s unanimous decision to approve the incentive.
Moran said of Windoor, “Their positive reputation preceded them on this.”