As the Flagler County Department of Economic Opportunity works to recruit businesses to relocate to Flagler County, there is a recurring problem: Nowhere to put them.
“We’re somewhat a victim of our own success,” said Helga van Eckert, department director. “We’ve been able to bring businesses in, but as a result we’re out of inventory.”
To help solve that problem, the County Commission approved on June 5 a $90,000 tax break over 10 years for an anonymous developer who is planning to build a 20,000-square-foot, $1.7 million building — with, as yet, no tenants. Thus, it’s called a “spec” building. The developer, who is local, is building on speculation that he’ll be able to attract tenants. In fact, van Eckert said, the building is being situated on U.S. 1 in such a way that it could lead to a whole “commercial park,” if the plan works.
“The cost of a spec building is high,” van Eckert told the County Commission before the vote. “And it’s a little bit risky, so it’s hard to get someone to come in and build.”
Most of the businesses she tries to recruit are not developers, so they are looking for space that’s already built; they’re not looking for land. For years, the county has tried to make deals with private companies to build spec buildings and increase inventory for manufacturing or other corporations, but this is the first time a deal has been struck.
Commission Chairman Nate McLaughlin praised van Eckert’s efforts, saying that she often does her work with businesses that require confidentiality, so she doesn’t get recognized publicly.
Commissioner Donald O’Brien approved of the incentives plan, especially because it comes with “very low risk” to the county.
Van Eckert agreed, saying that if the land stayed vacant, the property taxes would remain flat on the land anyway, and the county would not benefit. With the incentives deal, after the building is completed, the property taxes will increase beyond the $90,000 in 10 years.
The goal of the department, she added, is to bring businesses that spur the economy but do not harm the environment. Commissioner Greg Hansen said if this spec building is successful, hopefully it will inspire others to build more.