CLEARWATER — Gov. Rick Scott was up-front about his almost daily campaign stops at Florida business ceremonies when he appeared at a groundbreaking Thursday for a $50 million expansion at General Electric’s Clearwater plant.
“When you’re running your whole campaign on jobs, it’s nice to come to job announcements. It’s working,” Scott said, repeating a frequent slogan.
GE plans to hire 250 people at its plant on Calumet Street, which is in the midst of a 190,000-square-foot expansion that will establish the site as a center of excellence for manufacturing industrial transformers.
The company’s decision to shut down a facility in New York last year and increase its presence in Clearwater was driven in part by state and local incentives that eventually will result in a hefty tax refund so long as the promised jobs materialize.
The governor joined GE executives, several hundred employees and a group of state and local officials to highlight the economic partnership, which Scott says has driven job growth across Florida.
While the state’s unemployment rate of 6.2 percent is slightly higher than the national average, Scott’s office has been touting a favorable report for last month that showed Florida leading the nation with 37,000 new jobs.
GE officials said the governor likely will appear with them again in a few months as the company makes an announcement at another Florida facility.
“Our continued presence is a testament to the skilled workforce and favorable business climate that Gov. Scott and his team have been instrumental in creating,” said GE Energy Management president and CEO Mark Begor.
GE could get up to $429,000 through the state’s Qualified Target Industry program, with a credit tied to 143 of the new positions that must pay well above the county’s median income.
An even bigger incentive came from the city of Clearwater, which offered GE a tax break on the assessed property value of the expansion that could save it more than $1 million.
The Clearwater plant will become a major supplier of equipment for customers across the globe, with in-house capability to create and assemble all the parts necessary for orders.
The 250 jobs will be new hires rather than transfers from other plants, and most positions should be filled by the time the expansion is finished next year, GE product line leader Jim Koepsell said.
The positive employment news comes after an announcement Tuesday that Unilever is closing its ice cream factory in Pinellas Park, which employs 230 people, and moving operations to Missouri and Tennessee this fall to cut costs.