In my update on Americas Gateway, I included a never before published conceptual site plan for the 770+ acres of DUDA-owned property south of the railroad track, noting that it represents just under 9 million square feet of potential manufacturing, warehouse/ distribution and commercial space. At a conservatively projected cost of construction of $100 a square ft. this represents in excess of $900 million in building stock at build out.  That translates to between $8 and 10 million a year in ad valorem taxes to Glades County and a further $4 to $6 million annually to the Glades County School District.

That’s worth getting excited about.

Then I remind myself that folks in Glades County are naturally suspicious of anything that sounds to them too good to be true, having been promised multiple times that an economic turnaround is just around the corner, only to be disappointed when factors beyond their control quash their dreams.

So I’ll take this opportunity to be candid.

Probably the biggest challenge we’ve had with getting the AGLC project off the ground has been the uncertainty in the market created by the recession, the Florida real estate crash and the delays in completing the expansion of the Panama Canal. This uncertainty made the property owners/developer reluctant to get too far ahead of the market.

By partnering with Glades County to secure in excess of $1.4 million in grant funding, AGLC has managed to leverage the county’s investment and thereby keep the cost of their real estate very competitive. Glades County, meanwhile, has significantly increased the value of their real estate, and now has 15 acres of shovel ready property available to site new businesses.

So far Glades County has invested more than $1,331,586 in the Business Park and training center, surpassing the $1.3 million they pledged from reserves toward the regional training center project in applying for the $3.5 million legislative appropriation they received in 2014.

 I think that’s pretty striking for the fifth poorest county in the state of Florida and is representative of Glades County’s commitment to economic development. So when the Governor encourages local communities to put “skin in the game, ” I can think of few fiscally constrained counties which have invested so much skin.

 This is an investment which we believe will pay dividends. They’ll recoup that $1.3 million in a little over 3 years from anticipated fuel tax revenue generated by the travel center,  and by year 4 they will have recovered every dollar they’ve directly invested in economic development in the last ten years.

That’s a pretty good return on investment. So stay tuned.