Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

City on Cusp of Robust Industry? Officials: Area Would Reap Multiple Benefits from GE Oil & Gas Operation

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

City on Cusp of Robust Industry? Officials: Area Would Reap Multiple Benefits from GE Oil & Gas Operation

Article excerpt

Byline: David Bauerlein

Jacksonville's place on the map is a long way from the "fracking" boomtowns of North Dakota or even the off-shore rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.

But GE Oil & Gas' interest in building a manufacturing plant here would give the city a piece of the nation's fast-growing energy sector.

City officials are mum on whether GE Oil & Gas is "Project Speed," the code name for a company seeking $10 million in city financial incentives for a new 500-employee manufacturing plant.

The City Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on that legislation, which sailed through the council's Finance Committee last week on a 9-0 vote.

City officials previously said Project Speed is a Fortune 500 company that would build a new advanced manufacturing plant in Jacksonville. GE Oil & Gas is a division of GE, which is on the Fortune 500.

GE Oil & Gas, which doesn't currently operate in Jacksonville, has been posting job notices for managerial positions at a "new" plant in the city. The plant would make control valves for use in the oil and gas industry.

It's the kind of manufacturing that should be well-positioned for further expansion in the future, said Don Sabbarese, co-director of Kennesaw State University's Econometric Center, which tracks manufacturing activity across the Southeast.

"We know that the global oil and gas industry - especially the gas side with the new technology we have - is a booming industry in the United States, without a doubt," Sabbarese said.

"I think it would be a real golden opportunity," said state Rep. Lake Ray, R-Jacksonville, who is executive director of the First Coast Manufacturers Association.

Ray said he does not know for certain "one way or the other" whether GE Oil and Gas is Project Speed.

That unidentified company invoked a provision in state law that prevents the city from disclosing its name while the City Council is considering the incentive package. …

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