Lee commissioners OK public money for mystery ‘Project Orange’

A mystery company masked by a Florida confidentiality law is about to get an up to $670,000 financial incentive offer from Lee County.

All four commission members present at Tuesday’s meeting voted in favor of adding public money to negotiations with the company, which seeks a new location for its national headquarters. Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass is at a conference.

The company — known in county documents as “Project Orange” because its name and other identifying information can be exempt from public record by state statute — would create at least 120 professional and administrative jobs paying an average annual wage in excess of $80,000, according to commission meeting agenda documents.

Commissioners are not privy to Project Orange’s real name and do not have direct access to the company’s financial records at this stage. Instead, they based their decision on cues given by county staff and the state.

Lee is one of three counties nationwide Project Orange is evaluating as a future home base, said Rick Michael, Lee County’s economic development director who is among those with access to the confidential material.

Adding county funds to negotiations with Project Orange will keep Lee competitive, Commission Chairman Larry Kiker said.

“Without it, we would not be considered,” Kiker said. “We would have eliminated ourselves from the beginning.”

Commissioners adopted a resolution in support of Project Orange that would make the company eligible for a state tax refund between $672,000 and $1.68 million. If approved by the state, Lee County would be required to provide a 20 percent local match of up to $420,000.

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