Orlando commissioners tweak incentives meant to lure headquarters downtown

Ryan Gillespie, Orlando Sentinel

Orlando commissioners tweaked an incentive program Monday, which targets companies seeking to relocate their headquarters and can pay up to $4,000 per high-wage job brought to downtown.

The program offers up to $2,000 per job if the wage is at least 200% of the county or state’s average, another $1,000 per job if at least 15% of its workforce lives downtown and another $1,000 per job if at least 15% of the workforce spends at least $560 from a Transportation Spending Account, a pool of pre-tax funds from which employees can cover commuting costs.

Since the program was first crafted in 2006, five companies have been approved for the incentive, but none have received any money from it so far, said Thomas Chatmon, director of Orlando’s Downtown Development Board.

In order to get paid, a company must meet the requirements in job creation and retention over a decade, as well as meet the state’s reporting guidelines, Chatmon said.

“This is a performance-based program. After you get approved, you don’t get a check,” he said. “You get to perform, and after that performance… you have to then meet the state’s requirements for reporting. … No one has ever simply ever come back to us. The ball is in their court, they could still come.”

Among the changes unanimously approved Monday, the city is eliminating an incentive for companies to relocate to the Creative Village, having met its goal of bringing in 400 “high-value jobs” to the new business center, with Electronic Arts expected to relocate there from Maitland just up the road.

Also, companies will now have five years to create the promised number of jobs and be required to maintain the jobs for 10 years. To qualify for the incentive, a company would have to lease at least 200 square feet per new job, as well as require the employees to work at least half of their hours at the downtown office space.

The companies approved for the incentive are BBA Aviation, XOS Digital, BookthatDoc, Sightplan, Orion Technology Services, Topps Company and Arrow Sky Media, a city spokeswoman said.

Despite not paying out yet, Chatmon said the package and others like it is an important perk for city officials when competing with other communities to land companies that are thinking about moving.

“It’s important because when companies are contemplating moving, they compare incentive packages from different locations,” he said. “If you’re not competitive at that point, you don’t get the company.”