Less than four years ago, Air Products signed an economic development incentive agreement with Manatee County to create 250 jobs over four years. The first plan was for a three-year deal, but it was amended to four years before the formal agreement was signed.
On Tuesday, the Manatee County Commission approved another amendment that extends the agreement over a seven-year period, meaning Air Products has until 2020 to create 250 jobs.
“Because their business is reliant on gas pricing and since gas pricing has dropped, their business has dropped,” said Karen Stewart, Manatee County Redevelopment and Economic Opportunity Department official. “They were on track through 2015. They’re not going to bill us for 2016 or 2017, and they’ll catch up in 2018 and 2019.”
$349,248incentive amount paid to Air Products by Manatee County
Air Products spokesman Art George said the reason for the reduction in business involved multiple factors.
“Oil prices have hurt the balance sheets of LNG (liquified natural gas) producers,” George said. “LNG producers are involved in both the oil and the gas industry, so when oil prices are down, revenue is down and investment decisions slow. The second factor is that the world economy has not developed as we expected. There is an oversupply of LNG for plants that are coming on stream and many of these are using our LNG heat exchanger equipment.”
The county pays Air Products $1,500 per job, according to the agreement. The created jobs must pay at least $44,360, or 115 percent of the 2009 annual average wage in Manatee County, $38,574.
If the industrial gases company creates all of the promised jobs, $375,000 of Manatee County taxpayer money will reward the Pennsylvania-based business for creating jobs at the company’s Palmetto manufacturing facility, 2525 Inland Transport St.
A total of $150,000 of the $375,000 awarded by Manatee County is a local match required by the Department of Economic Opportunity, the state’s economic development arm. The DEO pairs with local governments to provide businesses with the Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund incentive, which aims to “attract new high-quality, high-wage jobs for Floridians in target industries.”
$1,018,750 incentive amount paid to Air Products by the state of Florida
In payment year 2014-2015, Manatee County paid Air Products $93,750 more for job creation than the state. According to the DEO’s online incentive portal, the state paid Air Products $18,750 for job creation in the 2014-2015 fiscal year.
The state also paid Air Products $1 million through its Quick Action Closing Fund, which aims to attract and retain businesses to the state. Good Jobs First, a nonprofit organization dedicated to tracking subsidies and promoting accountability in economic development, calls the closing fund a “secretive discretionary fund” and the state’s “most controversial” incentive program.
Manatee County paid Air Products $279,000 for creating 186 jobs between fiscal years 2014 and 2016, according to Manatee County Redevelopment and Economic Opportunity Department records. Air Products provides the county with employee rosters for each year specified in the agreement to prove the number of new jobs, per records obtained by the Bradenton Herald.
“Net jobs created must be maintained for a period of three years,” the original Air Products agreement reads.
$715,976,248 incentive amount paid to Air Products facilities in Louisiana, Florida, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Utah
Manatee County also provided “relief for the road impact fee to expanding, new, or relocating businesses” in the amount of $70,248. The transportation impact fee incentive is customized based on a constructed building’s use, square footage, transportation impact fees assessed and the average annual wage of the company.
The transportation impact fee incentive is not paid until the company completes construction and applies for a certificate of occupancy, according to county documents. Air Products applied for a certificate of occupancy for its 277,290-square-foot facility on Sept. 25, 2012, according to county permit records.
Across the company’s U.S. facilities, Air Products has received federal, state and local subsidies totaling $715,976,248 since 1997, according to the Good Jobs First Subsidy Tracker data.
At Air Products in Palmetto, George said the incentive money is used to abate hiring and training costs for new employees.
2015 wage distribution at Air Products Palmetto
Number of positions
$13,000 to $17,000
$35,000 to $40,000
$40,000 to $50,000
$50,000 to $60,000
$60,000 to $70,000
$70,000 to $80,000
$80,000 to $90,000
$90,000 to $97,000
$100,000 to $110,000
$110,000 to $121,000
More than $214,000
Source: Air Products employee roster submitted to Manatee County for job creation year 2015