By KATIE LANDECK News Herald Reporter Default preview for : IframePosted Aug 8, 2018 at 9:46 AMUpdated Aug 8, 2018 at 5:16 PM
By KATIE LANDECK News Herald Reporter Default preview for : Iframe
PANAMA CITY — Following in the flight path of GKN, a second aerospace manufacturing company has announced it is opening shop in Bay County.
Officials with Advanced Composites & Metalforming Technologies Inc., better known as ACMT, announced Wednesday they will be renovating the old Honeywell building in the Lynn Haven Industrial Park to become their newest manufacturing facility. The Connecticut-based company makes parts for commercial and military jets.
The move represents a $20 million investment in the region and 105 new jobs with an average pay of $43,700, according to the Bay County Economic Development Alliance (EDA). The company already has started hiring.
Negotiations to bring the company here started about a year ago, but ACMT officials set their eyes on Florida long before that when company President Michael Polo met Gov. Rick Scott at the Paris Air Show four years ago.
“Our Connecticut booth was right next door to Florida, and so Gov. Scott was at the Florida booth. Our governor very rarely comes to these shows,” Polo said. “So, the governor comes over to us, and I’ll never forget this as long as I live, he says, ‘so where’s your governor?’ and ’I said, ‘he’s not here.’ And he said, ‘well, if you were in Florida, your governor would be standing in front of you.’ ”
That made an impression, Polo said. Later that year, Polo said Scott visited him in Connecticut, which caused him to start thinking even more seriously about Florida.
Then at the Paris Air Show the next year, Polo met EDA President Becca Hardin, who is frequently described by colleagues as a force of nature because of stories like this one.
“I thought it would be a lackadaisical meeting,” Polo said. “We’re at this meeting and all of the sudden there is a deluge of water to the point the power is out, the roads are flooding, the ceiling is caving in. They are coming in and saying to us in our meeting, ‘excuse me, you have to leave,’ and she says ‘no, no, no. We’re not done with our conversation.’ ”
When show officials insisted they had to leave, Polo said Hardin kept on selling him on Bay County as they walked out the door.
“She just kept talking,” he said.
But that attitude, which reflects the willingness of Bay County leaders to work with ACMT, is one of the main reasons Polo listed for picking Bay County over other locations. He also listed the abundance of military talent in the region.
Another major factor, though, is GKN, which Polo said is one of ACMT’s “largest customers and we love them dearly.”
“It would have been difficult to recruit them without GKN,” said Hardin. “One of their biggest customers is GKN and through their relationship with GKN is really how they found out about us.”
When the EDA announced it had secured GKN in February 2017, officials said landing that aerospace giant would put Bay County on the map and help land other projects, which seems to be the case as this is the second business announcement the EDA has made in a month.
Hardin and her team “snagged one. Then they got two, then they got three. Now, we are celebrating four,” said Bay County Commissioner Tommy Hamm.
To make it happen, the EDA offered a slate of performance-based incentives to ACMT, according to Hardin, including state tax credits, some property tax abatements through the county and a grant with the help of the Chamber of Commerce to help ACMT renovate the facility.
In addition to the incentives, some officials put a more personal touch on it. City of Lynn Haven employees helped by mowing the lawn of the property so ACMT could see how much land they actually bought, and Hardin helped Polo pick out furniture at Fowhand’s for his new home in Bay County.
“There’s nothing more important that we do as business leaders and civic leader and community leaders as helping to create quality jobs and opportunities,” said EDA Chairman Jorge Gonzalez. “Every job counts.”
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