"Project Rex" could bring 1,500 jobs to Jacksonville

Credit Ryan Ketterman for Visit Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A retail and ecommerce company is considering bringing 1,500 jobs to Jacksonville - but they're asking for more than $18 million in incentives in return.

A new package filed for City Council Consideration called “Project Rex” proposes establishing a “large state-of-the-art fulfillment center facility” near Jacksonville International Airport. Groundbreaking on the facility would start this summer, if the Council approves the package and the company ultimately chooses Jacksonville. The incentives documents note that while getting this package approved is key in the company making its determination, its passage doesn’t actually ensure Jacksonville will be chosen.

The proposal would create a total of 1,500 jobs by the end of 2019. Five hundred of those would be a guaranteed permanent, full time equivalent with an average salary of $50,000, but there are no details in the incentives documents about the wage of the remaining 1,000, except to say that there will be “various wage levels”.  All 1,500 would have medical benefits, and after one year there are fringe benefits like tuition assistance.

It’s the 500 guaranteed wage jobs that most of the incentives are based off of, as well as some transportation projects. The company has been speaking with JTA, according to the documents, about establishing a dedicated bus stop and new bus lines to serve the facility and surrounding neighborhoods in order to ease employee access, especially in lower income neighborhoods.

The proposed incentives from the City are $13,400,000. This includes up to $300,000 in Qualified Target Industry Grant money- which is dependent on the amount of jobs created, up to $600,000 in a City Training/Hiring Assistance Grant, and up to $2.5 million to cover half of the proposed roadway construction and improvements. The bulk of the incentives- up to $10 million- is from a REV grant, which accounts for the increase in real and personal property taxes generated at the project site.

The $4,950,000 in State incentives under this proposal include more QTI grant money, up to $3 million from the FDOT got transportation improvements, and up to $750,000 in a Florida Flex Training grant.

“Project Rex” also envisions $200 million in capital investments as part of establishing this facility, including land and real estate improvements, equipment, and furniture.

Florida allows companies to remain anonymous when negotiating deals like this. The incentives documents only say the company has more than two decades in experience in “the retail and ecommerce markets” and employ more than 200,000 people worldwide currently.

The funding for the City’s share of the incentives would come from the JIA Community Redevelopment Area Trust Fund, where applicable.  The company believes the project would directly address high unemployment in some of the neighborhoods immediately around the airport on the Northside.

The deal is being introduced to the City Council Tuesday and will be deliberated on a fast track, which is common for Jacksonville’s proposed incentives packages.

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