The Valdosta Daily Times
The Valdosta – Lowndes County Industrial Authority recently sold Steeda Autosports the property that they have been leasing because Steeda has met and exceeded their original capital investment requirements.
Upon first review, some citizens questioned the land deal because the Authority sold land valued at $2,852,713 to Steeda for $500. However, Industrial Authority officials explained that the deal went exactly as planned.
When owner Dario Orlando agreed to build a manufacturing operation in Valdosta, the Authority offered him a tax abatement for five years, with the taxes increasing annually.
“We helped them start off at a low tax rate with a five year tax abatement,” said Allan Ricketts, project manager for the Authority. “During that time, he paid taxes at a graduated scale, so by the time he reached the fifth year, he was paying the full amount of taxes.”
In 2008, Steeda agreed to invest $8 million in capital and hire 40 employees. In 2012, the company approached the Industrial Authority to modify the original agreement because they had exceeded the capital investment portoin but were struggling on the job creation numbers. The Authority voted to modify the agreement, which lowered the number of employees to 30 and increased the capital investment to $9.5 million.
Steeda again exceeded their capital investment agreement by approximately $350,000, but has still not reached their agreed-upon job creation numbers; currently, Steeda has 26 employees in their Valdosta facilities.
“Typically, when you make your capital investment, you create your number of jobs, and if you get within the 80 percent range we look at the economic conditions and the climate, and if you've made 80 percent, you've done pretty darn good,” Ricketts said. “So, Dario (Orlando) came back to us in November of 2013 and said, 'I've made my capital investment. Here's the jobs that I created. I am now looking for some expansion of some other things that I want to do, and in order to do that I would now like to exercise my option to purchase this property.'”
Andrea Schruijer, executive director of the Authority, explained that since the company now owns the deed, the property will now be taxed at its full value because it is now back on the tax rolls.
“Our mission here at the Industrial Authority is to recruit new industry and then to help retain and expand our existing industry, and to create wealth in our community and to add to the tax base,” Schruijer said. “So when we purchase land, it comes off of the tax records. Our goal is to fill it back up with potential companies. Well Steeda was interested in locating here, so they bought 25.27 acres from the Industrial Authority. That $2.8 million is their building and personal property.”