The Fort Lauderdale City Commission will consider approving two job growth incentive deals on April 4, including a deal for a medical aviation company seeking to relocate its headquarters from north Texas.
Both applications were filed under the Qualified Target Industries (QTI) program through Enterprise Florida. The Florida House passed a bill to eliminate Enterprise Florida and it has proposed zero dollars for its job growth incentive programs in the coming year’s budget. Florida Governor Rick Scott has pledged his support for Enterprise Florida and the Florida Senate has funded it in the proposed budget.
The Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, which worked with the local QTI applicants, declined comment.
The application known as “Project Bogey” refers to Southlake, Texas-based MASA Global, which transports patients to hospitals with a network of private jets. MASA Global VP of Sales and Operations Alex Barretto said his company wants to move its executive and sales teams to a building near Las Olas in downtown Fort Lauderdale, although its transportation and claims team would remain in Texas. Many employees would be relocated, but he also expects to recruit new employees to Fort Lauderdale.
“One of things about South Florida is it has such a tremendous employee base and group of people that are hireable and fit right in with the company we want to build,” Barretto said. “We do recruiting nationwide and globally. Nothing against north Texas, but South Florida is a prime location where people want to live.”
Barretto said Fort Lauderdale’s close proximity to the Caribbean and South America and its many international flights were also factors. MASA Global’s regularly sends its international sales executives from its headquarters to visit its overseas offices, and twice a year it brings its international employees to its headquarters. Those travel expenses would be significantly less in Fort Lauderdale, he said.
MASA Global has 18 international offices and over 1 million members worldwide. In Latin America and the Caribbean, its clients purchase its services through their health insurance in case they need to be flown to a medical center for emergency care. Domestically, the company sells its services to both insurance plans and consumers.
Under the QTI application, MASA Global promised to create 35 jobs with an average annual wage of $71,789 and make a $4.7 million capital investment to lease and renovate 8,690 square feet of office space. If the company meets that job growth goal, it would receive $210,000 through the QTI over six years – with $42,000 from the city and the rest from the state.
The promise of 35 jobs was the minimum that MASA Global expects to create, Barretto said. If things go well, it could have 40 or 50 employees here, he said. Barretto said the Alliance also helped the company secure additional job training assistance.
“Absolutely, the incentives that are being provided by the Alliance, not only job creation but also offsetting the costs for training people, was the predominant factor for selecting Fort Lauderdale,” Barretto said. “Enterprise Florida was instrumental in helping us prepare the application and kept advising us of all the opportunities available. MASA Global hopes to take possession of its Fort Lauderdale office in June to begin tenant improvements. Its corporate divisions would start moving in throughout the year.”
In the other QTI application, a confidential company called “Project Vista” could create 300 jobs in a new Fort Lauderdale office.
The application describes Project Vista as a publicly-traded European company with more than 750 employees worldwide and a growing U.S. operation, although it didn’t disclose its industry. The company would make a $10.4 million capital investments as it purchases and renovates 50,000 square feet of office space. The Fort Lauderdale office would be its international headquarters.
Should Project Vista create 300 jobs with an average wage of $52,938, it would receive tax incentives of $1.5 million, with $300,000 from the city and the rest from the state.
“Vista developed a sales approach, a pricing structure, and a tangible product delivery system that has allowed them to be extremely competitive,” the county memo stated. “Project Vista is considering a new expansion due to a significant increase in market demand for its revolutionary approach.”