Officials hope 2 projects get state approval

Two companies are eying properties within the Tradition Center for Commerce – the jobs corridor that fronts Interstate 95 south of Tradition Square. And while the City of Port St. Lucie and the St. Lucie County Commission have given their blessing, the state is expected to render its decision soon.

Even then, it’s not a done deal until the companies purchase the land. “Just because our local governments approved the packages doesn’t not necessarily mean [the companies] will commit – but [it] sure is a very good sign,” said Economic Development Council President Pete Tesch.

Tesch said he hopes an official announcement from each company will be made around or before the fourth quarter this year.

The two economic development projects went by code names Project Glaze and Project Connect while winding their way through governmental reviews. Both companies sought – and received – enticements to move to the Tradition Center for Commerce.

In both cases, they sought a 10-year property tax exemption, impact fee mitigation, and fast-tracked permitting for construction.

Accel International, which went by Project Connect, plans to make a $43 million investment via construction and equipment purchases.

It plans to hire 125 employees over three years with an average salary of $47,000 – not including those of upper management, who would be paid more.

Already, Accel has locations in Connecticut and Indiana. And while the company plans to keep its headquarters in Connecticut, for now, company representative Dan Chung said he already anticipates many of the executives putting in requests to transfer to Florida or at least spend vacation time here.

“It’s a wonderful place to live,” Chung said of Connecticut, “but it’s very cold.”

Council members told Chung that Florida – and Port St. Lucie specifically – has the cure for cold.

Tesch told the council and the commission that the economic impact analysis concluded Accel International’s move to Tradition would result in a one-time $21.2 million boost to the economy through new construction and a $20 million annual boost via employment.

The planned 125-employee number would increase through indirect job growth, essentially creating nearly 400 jobs.

Tesch said the total economic impact output would be closer to $150 million. “This will have a profound impact,” he said.

Accel International makes plated copper wiring used in the aviation, medical and electronic industries.

“We have been growing rapidly,” Chung told the County Commission. “We’re kind of bursting at the seams.”

Project Glaze was the code name given a German family-owned ophthalmologic manufacturing company that already calls St. Lucie West home.

Oculus Optikgerate Gmbh, the parent company, owns Oculus Surgical located on NW Mercantile Place, which employs 31 people. The company recently acquired another business and plans to consolidate and expand its operations.

To do so, Oculus plans to build a 50,000-square-foot manufacturing and distribution facility and add 50 new employees over the next three years. Those jobs would have average salaries of $43,000, not including benefits.

Oculus Optikgerate was established in 1895 and employs 443 people in Washington and Port St. Lucie and serves 80 countries. It manufactures eye surgery devices.

“We’re happy to be here,” Oculus representative Ross McDonough told the City Council.

“We want to stay here. And we want to build our business here and that is what it boils down to.”

He reminded the council that Oculus has been in St. Lucie West for five years. “It’s all working out swell here,” McDonough said.

Both the City Council and County Commission unanimously approved the economic development incentive packages for Accel and Oculus. Assuming the state gives its blessings, the firms are expected to negotiate purchase and sale agreements with the City of Port St. Lucie to buy land in the Tradition Center for Commerce. If approved, then the companies would be expected to announce their decision on moving to Tradition.

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