More details emerge on Costco distribution depot in Port St. Lucie

ST. LUCIE COUNTY — Further details emerged about the Costco distribution depot here in Port St. Lucie as county commissioners voted Tuesday on tax breaks to help bring the company to Southern Grove.

The city on Monday approved a $16 million land sale and similar tax incentives as the project — code-named Project Everest — was revealed to be the Costco facility that will relocate from West Palm Beach.

Commissioners unanimously approved tax breaks Tuesday identical to those passed by the city. In years one through five, the company would be exempt from all ad valorem county taxes. In the sixth year that exemption drops to 90%, then to 80% in year seven, 60% in year eight, 40% in year nine and 20% in year 10.

The county also agreed to give Costco a five-year grant of $2,100 per new employee. The city gave an additional $3,500-per-new-job impact and mobility fee waiver.

235 employees in first year

The promised hiring schedule — which the company will be required to meet to not risk losing those incentives — was revealed by county staff. In the first year after opening, Costco will hire 235 full-time employees. It will then add 15 employees in both years three and four. Groundbreaking is expected in the next six months and be complete about a year later, Jennifer Davis, director of the city Community Redevelopment Agency, said Monday.

Negotiations were led primarily by the Economic Development Council of St. Lucie County, said County Attorney Daniel McIntyre. The Economic Development Council, city and county had kept the eventual occupant of nearly 200 acres along Interstate 95 a closely held secret, as state law allows for major economic development projects, until earlier this week.

The average wage for the 265 full-time employees at the depot, $55,350 plus benefits, will be about 121% higher than the county-wide average, Wes McCurry, senior vice president of the EDC, said Tuesday.

McCurry and Commission Chair Cathy Townsend thanked county voters for approving referendums that fund economic-development work.

“You voted for this to happen within our county,” Townsend said.

Local incentives are critical

The state does not provide many of the same benefits as other states, so local…