Several Sarasota area building industry organizations and business owners are fighting back against an economic development effort to lure a national roofing company to town using public subsidies.
The company in question is part of a proposal, under the codename Project Mulligan, scheduled to go before the Sarasota County Commission Tuesday May 24. An agenda item for the project was pulled before a meeting held May 10. The company, not named in public documents, would be eligible for a total tax refund of $1.08 million. About 20% of that, $216,000, would come from the county, while the rest would come from the state's Qualified Targeted Industry Tax Refund.
The QTI tax refund incentive is available for “companies that create high wage jobs in targeted high value-added industries,” according to a memo from the Sarasota County Director of Business and Economic Development Jeff Maultsby. The company has committed to creating 180 new full-time jobs at an average annual wage of at least $58,757, the memo adds.
Al Singleton, who has run Sarasota-based Alvin J. Singleton Roofing Contractors for 35 years, called the plan a big mistake. Singleton's firm, with about $4 million in annual sales, does mostly residential work. “Our tax dollars are being used to bring them here,” says Singleton. “That's just not right.”
Economic Development Corp. of Sarasota County President and CEO Mark Huey declined to comment, saying it was an active project. Maultsby didn't respond to written questions sent by the Business Observer prior to deadline.
Doug Sutter, president of Sutter Roofing, one of the largest commercial roofing companies in the state, with clients that include Publix and $35 million in annual sales, says the issue is not only about corporate welfare. Giving a company public money for jobs in what's already a historically tight labor market, says Sutter, puts other companies at a competitive disadvantage. The company behind Project Mulligan, he says, can use its refund to possibly steal away employees from other companies.
“None of the other businesses in town get handouts,” Sutter says. “We started a business, took a risk and had to make it on our own.”
The board of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange, a leading area building industry organization, met late Thursday and plans to publicly oppose the project.