City also offers incentives for jobs at Prioria Robotics

Published: Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 8:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 8:57 p.m.

The Gainesville City Commission voted Thursday to pay up to $40,000 for jobs created by Prioria Robotics Inc. over the next four years, matching the County Commission in supporting the company's expansion plans and trying to keep it from moving away.

The Qualified Target Industry Program would pay Prioria Robotics $10,000 for each of up to 40 new jobs, with the state funding 80 percent up to $320,000 and the city and county paying up to $40,000 each.

If the company relocates outside the Gainesville city limits, the County Commission agreed to pay up to $56,000 with no match from the city.

The County Commission voted 4-1 on Aug. 23 to participate, with Mike Byerly voting against, saying it is not appropriate for government to provide funding to some types of businesses and not others.

The state's QTI program offers incentives to businesses that pay above average wages and are in "high value-added industries," according to Enterprise Florida, the state's public-private economic development agency.

Prioria Robotics pays an average wage of $67,588, compared with a local average of $33,923, according to its application. The company develops small, unmanned aircraft with onboard electronics that provide enhanced imaging and navigation. It grew from 20 to 40 employees last year after landing a $2.8 million defense contract with Canada to supply reconnaissance drones for missions in Afghanistan.

It is located on three floors above the Wells Fargo at 104 N. Main St., but needs an additional 20,000 square feet.

The company is also considering a move to Tampa, Georgia, North Carolina and Canada.

CEO Bryan da Frota said investors want them to look at areas with a lot of business incentives.

The company has also applied for money from the state Quick Action Closing Fund.

Da Frota said he doesn't yet know how much the state and local incentives will compare to "very aggressive" incentives such as those offered by North Carolina.

"The incentives are a big part because at the end of the day they just help the business keep going and to get through some of these dips and valleys in the economy," he said.

He said Gainesville also has a good quality of life and a "unique ecosystem" of support that is growing to nurture small businesses.

"These things will definitely weigh into the decision," he said.

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