Incentives Considered for Mystery Project That Could Bring 100 High-Pay Jobs to Downtown Lakeland

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Local governments are being asked to sweeten the pot by a half million dollars to attract an unidentified company considering bringing 100 high-pay jobs to downtown Lakeland and investing $50 million here. The Polk County Commission approved up to $250,000 in incentives on Tuesday, and the Lakeland City Commission is expected to do the same on Monday.

An existing building in downtown Lakeland is one of the places under scrutiny in a confidential venture that is code-named Project Horizon by Enterprise Florida, the city of Lakeland’s business development manager, Jason Willey, told city commissioners on Friday.

Project Horizon anticipates salaries averaging $93,526 a year, twice the Polk County average, he said. If all 100 positions are filled at that average salary, the project would be eligible for $500,000 in incentives — paid half by the city and half by the county — under the Polk County Bonus Incentive Program, Willey said.

The program allows incentives of $5,000 per job to attract companies whose average wage is twice the county average, he said. Projects that get incentives at this level are rare, he told commissioners.

The incentives would be paid over a three-year period once the new jobs are filled and verified, according to a resolution that city commissioners will consider Monday.

“This is really us putting our hat in the ring and to be competitive for the project and show that we want them in Lakeland,” Willey told commissioners. He did not name other cities under consideration for the project.

Julie Townsend, executive director of the Lakeland Downtown Development Authority, said Friday she does not know what building is under consideration, but it would be a plus for downtown.

“Downtown Lakeland needs more of everything — more residential, more workers, more retail. So any programs or incentives that support high-wage jobs will only help us reach those goals,” she said.

The Lakeland Economic Development Council and Central Florida Development Council have been involved with the effort to land Project Horizon in Lakeland, Willey said.

“Project Horizon’s potential expansion would be a tremendous win for Lakeland and for downtown,” said Ashley Cheek, LEDC’s vice president for business development. “This project includes high-skill, high-wage jobs and we look forward to the opportunity to add more jobs and capital investment to our community.”