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Office Depot, Pratt & Whitney approved for government incentives

Laws and LegislationCompensation and BenefitsOffice Depot Inc.Local GovernmentExecutive BranchGovernment

Palm Beach County Commissioners approved millions of dollars in incentives Tuesday for Office Depot and Pratt & Whitney.

The only opposition came from two county residents who raised concerns about giving public help to private companies.

Palm Beach County Mayor Priscilla Taylor said the county was in competition with other communities to keep Office Depot. "We are pretty fortunate that they did decide to stay here," she said.

Boca Raton-based Office Depot merged last year with Illinois-based OfficeMax but decided to keep its headquarters in the county. Office Depot, the No. 2 office-supply retailer in the nation, employs about 1,700 at its Boca Raton headquarters.

The commission approved $500,000 in a job-growth incentive grant to its current incentives contract. The amendment brings the value of Office Depot's contract with the county to $7 million, said Shannon LaRocque-Baas, assistant county administrator. The original contract was $6.5 million over 10 years, and Office Depot already has qualified for some of those tax refunds.

The county incentives are part of a $5 million package that includes $3 million from the governor's Quick Action Closing Fund, used to close deals when competing with other states, and $1.5 million from Boca Raton — the largest award ever from the city.

Office Depot's amended contract requires the company to retain 2,328 jobs until 2024 and create 378 local jobs.

The economic impact of the project is estimated to be $443 million based on an average annual salary of $104,000 for the new jobs, the county said.

The commission also approved its contribution to a $2.3 million package of state and local incentives for Pratt & Whitney, which operates a jet-engine design and manufacturing plant northwest of West Palm Beach employing 650 workers.

The county will provide $650,000 in tax breaks over six years for Pratt, with $770,000 in tax breaks from the state, and $880,000 from the governor's Quick Action Closing Fund.

Pratt, which recently opened a new engine design center, said in June that it plans to add 110 jobs by the end of 2016. The average annual wage will be $84,892, according to the county. The company said it is making a $25 million investment in upgrades and equipment for its military business. The economic impact over five years is estimated to be $183 million, according to the county.

In 2012, Pratt & Whitney was promised $4.4 million in incentives, including $3.4 million from the state and $1 million from Palm Beach County. The company promised to add at least 230 jobs over 10 years, with the jobs averaging a salary of more than $80,000 a year. That job creation has not yet been confirmed, according to the state's incentives website.

Kelly Smallridge, who heads the county's economic development agency, the Business Development Board, said the Pratt expansions are separate.

"All good business for Palm Beach County because it brings more high-wage engineering jobs," she said.

Staff writer Andrew Reid contributed to this report.

mpounds@sunsentinel.com or 561-243-6650

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Laws and LegislationCompensation and BenefitsOffice Depot Inc.Local GovernmentExecutive BranchGovernment
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