US Gas & Electric persuaded to stay in Miami-Dade County, add 125 jobs
By Zachary S. Fagenson
Though Doral-based US Gas & Electric Inc. weighed moving its headquarters to Massachusetts, it will instead add 125 jobs here over three years and invest about $800,000 in operations, officials announced this week.
State and county incentives helped persuade the company to keep 130 current jobs in Miami though it doesn't offers products or services in Florida. It provides natural gas and electricity in Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Ohio.
The capital addition will build out its 40,000-square-foot headquarters at Northwest 87th Avenue and 37th Street, said President Douglas Marcille.
For staying in Miami, the company will get $162,500 as a Qualified Targeted Industry tax refund over six years. County commissioners Jan. 21 agreed to provide $32,500; the state will fund $130,000.
To receive it all, however, US Gas must add 75 jobs by Dec. 31, 25 more by that date next year and a final 25 by Dec. 31, 2012.
The jobs, according to a Beacon Council report to the county, will pay an average of about $45,000 plus $6,500 in benefits. The report also said 50 ancillary jobs will be created over six years while the county, through sales and property taxes, will net $6,135.
"The 130 jobs that are staying in Miami-Dade and 125 new jobs are good for our community," Beacon Council President and CEO Frank Nero said in statement. "US Gas & Electric's decision to remain and expand in Miami-Dade cannot be overstated. Miami is truly the ideal location for businesses to run their international, domestic or local operations."
While both the Beacon Council and county officials remain keen on job creation and the county's January unemployment was 10.9%, a spotty past forced US Gas to make a rare move and bypass confidentiality in the incentives process.
Commissioners fingered a 2006 settlement with the US Securities and Exchange Commission over an "informal inquiry" and civil action for unregistered securities transactions found in the US Gas application as a concern, though management has since changed and the company has become private.
Yet some didn't want to grant incentives without oversight.
Though the Beacon Council follows up annually and visits companies it attracts, Commissioner Barbara Jordan called it "outreach."
"I just want to make sure that we are verifying the employees are there on site, that we are looking at the payroll and that we're looking at it on a regular basis and not just the paperwork related to each placement," she said.
And while Mr. Marcille said the proposed incentive package was what ultimately convinced US Gas to stay, he said that in "re-evaluating our growth strategies, we believe Miami-Dade County offers our domestic business needs a strong and solid platform from to which to operate and expand."
The company had considered relocating to Pittsfield, a town of about 41,000 in rural, western Massachusetts.
"Pittsfield ha[d] an incentive package that was potentially appealing to us," Mr. Marcille added, "and also the cost of living and doing business is lower there than in Miami."