Delray commissioners hear plans to lure high-paying jobs to the downtown

Delray Economic Developement Director Francisco Perez-Azua during his presentation Tuesday evening.

Delray Economic Development Director Francisco Perez-Azua during his presentation Tuesday evening.

By David Sedore, Palm Beach

DELRAY BEACH — From cash for jobs to a low-cost land leasing program, Delray’s Community Redevelopment Agency is making a push to improve the economy of the city’s downtown.

Francisco Perez-Azua, the city’s economic development director, Tuesday evening presented city commissioners with a six-point program the CRA is developing in order to attract both jobs and top-of-the-line office construction to the city’s Atlantic Avenue corridor.

The incentives are targeted at companies bringing in high-paying jobs — those with annual salaries of at least $51,106, or 115 percent of the median in Palm Beach County. The downtown is rich in retail businesses and restaurant but not so rich in high-end jobs andwhat’s called class A office space.

The package won’t transform the downtown instantly. Nor is it a quick cure for an economy in a deep funk — Palm Beach County’s unemployment rate hovers above 12 percent and empty offices are abundant — but it does position Delray to take advantage when the recovery does hit town.

“We know nothing is going to happen over night,” Perez said after Tuesday’s meeting. “As the economy rebounds, it does put Delray on the map for companies in market to relocate.”

The package includes:

— A bonus paid to firms bringing in or creating a minimum of five jobs paying at least $51,106 a year. The jobs would have to be in targeted industries, such as communications, life sciences and finance, and the bonuses would be scaled depending on where in the downtown the business locates. The most that can be paid out: $250,000 over five years.

To qualify, a firm would have to provide copies of W-2s, financial statements for three years and own property or have a long-term lease.

— A building assistance program, where the CRA would help finance construction of class A office space by becoming an equity limited partner in the project. The developer would have to finance a minimum of 20 percent of the project’s cost; the project could be mixed use, but must have at least 15,000 square feet of class A offices.

— A moving expense program, where the CRA would help businesses set up shop in the downtown by paying a maximum of $50,000 in moving costs. To qualify, a company would have to bring a minimum of 25 high-paying jobs in targeted industries.

— A low-cost, long-term land leasing program to entice developers to build on CRA-owned land. Lease payments would be nominal the first few years, gradually stepping up toward market rates down the road. A certain percentage of the building would have to be class A, and the developer/owner would have to cover a minimum of 20 percent of the financing for the project.

— A capital improvements program intended to help cover the cost of renovating or expanding buildings in the district by reducing interest payments on associated loans. The CRA would pay a maximum of $50,000 in certain areas, such as West Atlantic; $25,000 in the rest of the downtown.

—  A construction grant program designed to help builders cover the costs of any work done in public right of ways, such as roads, utilities, signs and parking, or in public spaces of a project. The grant would cover 50 percent of the cost to a maximum of $250,000.

The CRA already has passed three of the programs: jobs bonuses, moving expenses and the low-cost land leases. Perez said the other three likely will be adopted by the first week in June.

Both Mayor Woodie McDuffie and Commissioner Angeleta Gray noted that the CRA’s package doesn’t include free land to qualified business prospects, something fairly common in the world of corporate recruiting.

Perez said that was not something the CRA board considered. “Their view is to protect the taxpayers. They have not been inclined toward giving away taxpayer land.”

Commissioner Gary Eliopoulos gave the plan a favorable review but said the focus now has to be to get word out to the greater business community.

“It’s all about marketing,” Eliopoulos said. “The message has to be out there.”


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