Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

PRC Ready to Start Anew in Palatka

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

PRC Ready to Start Anew in Palatka

Article excerpt

Byline: RYAN GEDDES

In 1997, Precision Response Corp. announced it would create 400 new jobs at a call center in a former BellSouth building on Emerson Street in Jacksonville.

The Plantation-based customer service provider had just taken its stock public the year before and was expanding throughout the state. It signed a lease, gutted and remodeled the old telecom building's interior, and set up shop.

Precision manages telephone and e-mail customer and marketing services for companies like Expedia, British Airways and AT&T and is one of Florida's 20 largest employers, according to the Governor's Office.

But its Jacksonville office was built around a single contract, and that work dried up in 2001. So the company laid off its Jacksonville workers and closed the call center.

Its former building still stands vacant.

Now Precision is heading back to the region, this time to Putnam County, where the company plans to open a 430-employee call center in Palatka's Putnam County Business Park.

As an incentive, the Governor's Office of Tourism, Trade & Economic Development has authorized as much as $2.1 million in state "qualified target industry" tax refunds for Precision over the next five years.

Traditional QTI incentive packages require local governments to kick in 20 percent of the tax refund money and the state picks up the rest.

But Scott Openshaw, a spokesman for the office, said the Palatka area is a Rural Area of Critical Economic Concern, which allows it to waive the 20 percent requirement and makes it eligible for $4,800 in tax credits per job created.

Neither the Governor's Office nor Precision Response Corp. would disclose the salary range of the Palatka jobs.

"Our office is bound by confidentiality," said Openshaw.

Companies are eligible for QTI tax refunds in an area if the jobs they create pay 115 percent of the county or statewide average annual wage, whichever is lower. The average annual wage in Putnam County is $27,414, according to the most recent data provided by Enterprise Florida. That means Precision's Palatka jobs would need to pay at least $31,526 to be eligible for QTI tax refunds. …

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