Antes... Er, Bids... Reach $90 Million
Piper is searching for a home for its new PiperJet aircraft
manufacturing plant, the accompanying 1500 jobs, and possibly its
Two Florida cities have unveiled details of incentive-laden
proposals designed to entice the Vero Beach-based company to stay
in-state... and they're quite serious about it. One plan has
reportedly reached $90 million. New Mexico officials are now
confirming the state's place as a bidder for the aircraft company,
according to The Albuquerque Tribune.
"I will tell you that we are clearly very, very interested in
Piper and we would be delighted if they were to choose New Mexico
as a site for their facility," said Kelly O'Donnell, the state's
acting secretary of economic development. "We feel we present a
very competitive package, and clearly New Mexico is becoming
increasingly desirable as a place to do business."
Piper spokesman Mark
Miller confirmed Wednesday Albuquerque is one of the five cities
that are on the short list for the site. A visit to Albuquerque by
Piper officials for an assessment is scheduled Friday.
"We are continuing to explore our options," Miller said.
"Albuquerque is part of our serious consideration for site
Piper said it narrowed its list of potential sites last month
down to five, but would only confirm its hometown of Vero Beach as
one. Various media reports list Oklahoma City; Tallahassee, FL; and
Columbia, SC as rounding out the short list.
As Florida's public records laws are a bit more rigorous than
some, officials in Tallahassee and Indian River County, which
includes Vero Beach, have disclosed details of their proposed
The Vero Beach proposal package tops out at $50 million and
includes such incentives as purchasing Piper's existing facilities
and leasing it back to the company and building a new facility for
building the PiperJet, along with the impact fees associated with
the construction and possibly a reduced utility rate, said Helene
Caseltine, economic development director for the Indian River
County Chamber of Commerce.
Caseltine said the Indian River County Board of Commissioners
and the Vero Beach City Council have approved the plan in concept
and a vote for final approval would happen only if the city is
chosen by Piper.
"That's a ballpark figure," Caseltine said of the $50 million.
"We're not going to release our entire package to the media. That
would be silly. I don't want our competitors to know the
Tallahassee City Commission is scheduled to meet on Wednesday to
consider an estimated $90 million proposal created by city economic
development officials. The plan includes building a
593,000-square-foot manufacturing space and around 122,000 square
feet of corporate office space.
That construction would cost about $65 million, with an
additional $15-20 million to cover capitalized interest through
2013. Another $5 million would be used for airport improvements and
Piper would provide lease payments over 30 years to cover the debt,
according to the proposal.
Published reports in Florida indicate the state would also throw
in another $20 million to keep Piper home. Enterprise Florida
officials, the state's economic development arm, declined to
confirm or deny those reports to the Tribune.
Oklahoma and South Carolina declined to comment on specific
numbers to the Tribune, as did New Mexico.
Vero Beach City Manager Jim Gabbard was quoted in The (Vero
Beach) Press Journal on Wednesday saying, "We know there are other
proposals out there like the $70 million from Albuquerque."
O'Donnell wouldn't spill an exact value of what that state might
offer. "However, the total value of the package, including tax
abatements, could total $70 million over a number of years,"
O'Donnell said. "I'm not confirming nor denying, however I could
see that our package, with everything included, could total that
amount over a certain number of years."
O'Donnell went on to say the state of New Mexico has "an
arsenal" of incentives it is authorized to offer including
industrial revenue bonds, a program to provide reimbursement for
certain training costs, and tax credits for providing high wage
jobs and on the value of equipment they bring into the state.
Richard Aboulafia, an aviation analyst with the Teal Group,
doesn't like New Mexico's history of directly investing in an
aviation venture like Eclipse Aviation and the planned
"There's a fine line between infrastructure and tax breaks and
outright subsidies," Aboulafia said. "You have to watch that you're
not giving away the store."
But, he said New Mexico's chance of outbidding its competitors
was "very good."
"The New Mexican taxpayer is a remarkably generous creature," he
Vero Beach stands to lose the most should the vote not swing
their way. Piper employs 1,029 people and is Indian River County's
largest private employer, Caseltine said. It has been in Vero Beach
An economic impact study released last month concluded that the
company has a $518 million impact on the local community, Caseltine
"If Albuquerque or whoever loses out, they just move on to the
next project. No big deal," Caseltine said. "If we lose out, it's