MELBOURNE, Florida -- Tax money and tax breaks given to businesses in the name of job growth facilitated by the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast and Enterprise Florida have now made headlines across the state of Florida following the filing of a lawsuit by Brevard County Clerk of Court Scott Ellis against Blue Gem, LLC and Roseware, LLC.
After over a year of in-depth local reporting by Brevard Times reporter Charles Parker, the story has finally been picked up two major Florida newspapers; the Tampa Bay Times and the Miami Herald. At stake in the lawsuit are millions of dollars of taxpayer money and purported public debt obligations.
Those two companies, along with nearly a dozen other companies, are affiliated in one way or another with Blue Ware, a Michigan company wooed by Florida tax money that Florida Governor Rick Scott took credit for bringing to the Space Coast last year.
In addition to the millions of dollars funneled by former Brevard County Clerk of Court Mitch Needelman, this group of companies stood to benefit from various government program payouts such as Florida's State Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund, Quick Action Closing Fund, Brownfield Redevelopment Jobs Bonus Tax Refund Program, and other "workforce incentives" that total at least $1.31 million, plus a local match of somewhere between $250k to $350k from the City of Melbourne and Brevard County. In return for these taxpayer dollars, elected officials touted in widely-circulated press releases last year that:
"The company expects to hire 190 employees with an average wage of $69,000 over the next four years in a leased facility in downtown Melbourne. The company will invest over $1 million in tangible property and equipment to support operations. At full employment, the company’s total economic impact is estimated to be over $22.4 million."
The Space Coast EDC said in a press release last year that it "worked closely with the company to demonstrate the competitive advantages of locating in Brevard County and developed a competitive proposal outlining the tax advantages and skilled labor pool." The EDC added that BlueWare selected Brevard County over two other potential sites "primarily due to its skilled labor pool and attractive tax climate."
“BlueWare recognized the opportunity to grow its success though our available, highly skilled workforce,” said EDC president & CEO Lynda Weatherman about BlueWare coming to Brevard. “The company’s decision to relocate to Brevard County further diversifies our economy, augmenting our high-tech corporate footprint. We look forward to the company’s growth and success on the Space Coast.”
The EDC noted that it worked closely with its project partners Enterprise Florida, Brevard County, Brevard Workforce and the City of Melbourne to successfully secure the BlueWare project.
Although public records ultimately revealed that Roseware had contracted with the Brevard Clerk of Court on April 6, 2012, the EDC did not mention the Brevard County Clerk of Court contract in their May 14, 2012 announcement.
The companies named in the lawsuit are among a growing list of companies that have recently made headlines for receiving tax money for the promise of jobs.