Miami-Dade County asking state to bend on wages in hopes of keeping mystery financial firm
By Risa Polansky
To ensure that a global financial services firm not only stays in Miami-Dade but also expands here, the county is asking the state to lower its wage standards.
To snag business incentive grants from the state, companies looking to relocate or grow must create jobs that pay "a little bit north of $45,000," Robert Cruz, the county's chief economist, told commissioners at a meeting last week.
The mystery firm that the county is vying to keep plans to add 366 jobs here by the end of 2011 — but the average salary is about $35,000.
Dr. Cruz on behalf of the county and its economic development arm the Beacon Council asked commissioners to agree "essentially to formally request that the state waive its minimum annual wage" requirement for the incentive grants.
The unidentified financial company is requesting $475,800 through Florida's Qualified Target Industry tax refund program.
If the state agrees and the company decides to stay here rather than move to Virginia — a possibility, according to its grant application — Florida would pay 80% and the county the remaining $95,160 over five years, plus a requested $20,000 in local job incentives.
Virginia is offering the company $885,218 in corporate income tax credits, training grants and recruiting services, the application says.
If the company stays and pulls off the planned expansion, Dr. Cruz said, it would more than double its current local workforce.
Because of the suffering economy and staggering 11%-plus unemployment, the state seems willing to bend when it comes to the wage requirements if a company is promising a significant shot in the arm in additional jobs, he said.
Also, "for the type of industry this project is in, $35,000 annual wage is the average in Miami-Dade County," and about $12,000 in benefits for each employee would add to that total.
"We feel that this project is worthy of the incentive," Dr. Cruz said.
Commissioners agreed, voting to support the incentive grants requests and ask the state to bend its wage rules for the sake of adding hundreds of jobs.
Incentive applicants' identities are generally kept under wraps during the process to keep a competitive edge.
What we do know: the firm is based in San Mateo County, CA, and already has a service center in the county.
Speculators have guessed Wells Fargo or Visa.
Expecting added inbound calls to its customer service centers, the mystery firm is looking to expand one to handle the volume — either here or in Virginia.
The Beacon Council reports that the company would invest $1.7 million in construction and renovation — it plans to add 29,000 square feet — and $2.2 million in capital equipment.
That $3.9 million investment, along with the economic impact from operations, would generate $119,740 in revenues to county government over five years, documents say.
The company intends to create 185 jobs by 2010's end and another 181 during 2011.
The expansion could generate as many as 110 indirect jobs.
The company would get the incentive grants only after achieving direct job promises.