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Sun, Jun 20, 2004

Collier County (FL) to Safire: Will Travel? Have Cash!

County reiterates offer to Safire of $17.4 million incentive

The Naples Daily News is reporting that an offer by Collier County (FL) of $17.4 million as an incentive to Safire Aircraft Co. is still on the table. But there's a catch -- Safire would have to move to a Collier County airport, Immokalee Regional. So far, Safire's response is that it considers itself solvent, and will know by late July if it is interested in relocating.

ANN has been covering the Safire story closely ever since things went from bad to worse for the company, ostensibly because of a delay in a financing deal that would have provided the company with badly needed cash flow.

Safire ran out of money last week after the delay was announced, and suspended operations. Some 100 employees were laid off almost immediately after the financing deal with a Swiss investor did not take place on schedule.

"We are strapped for cash. We were expecting to have this closing April 30. It's 60 days late," Safire President and Chief Executive Officer Camilo Salomon on Thursday.

After stating that he would know by Thursday whether or not the financing deal was closed, Salomon said he was planning to fly to Geneva on Thursday to close on the investment contract on June 23. He would then reopen operations at Safire's current location at Opa-Locka no later than June 28. However, Salomon stated that the new investors will become the new board of directors of the company, and they apparently do not want any decisions on relocation to be made until then. According to Salomon, a decision will be made by July 30.

The offer from Collier County and its Economic Development Council is not new. ANN reported the original offer from the county back in March. Since then, both the County and the Council have been taking some heat for allegedly not being aware that Safire was having financial problems. Nevertheless, Collier County Commissioner Fred Coyle and EDC Executive Director Tammie Nemecek confirmed that the offer is still on the table, and even though Safire's problems have worsened, they feel that they are still correct in offering the incentives.

"At this stage of the process, what we have done is given them a list of incentives that would be given to them based on the criteria of the jobs they would create. At the point they get serious and say we are one of three sites, we come to the table for final contract negotiations," Nemecek said. Coyle added that at that point, the county would negotiate safeguards as part of the contract for the incentives that would protect the county taxpayer's interests.

Dade County, where the company is currently located, is also working to convince Safire to stay at Opa-Locka Airport, with an offer of nearly $20 million in incentives.



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