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United Technologies Land Deal in Palm Beach Gardens

United TechnologiesLand set aside for a long-sought biotech boom can instead be used by a business proposing new jobs, but not biotech advancements, Palm Beach County commissioners decided Tuesday evening. The proposed deal involves 30 acres in Palm Beach Gardens, near the Scripps Florida biotech research campus.

That 30 acres is part of an area reserved for biotech businesses that could follow Scripps. The county and state invested more than $600 million in taxpayer-backed incentives to lure California-based Scripps with expectations to create a local biotech industry hub with high-tech, high-paying jobs.

But on Tuesday, commissioners supported making an exception for United Technologies Corp. That would allow the company to potentially build a 250,000-square-foot facility that develops “intelligent building” technologies ranging from security systems to escalators.

That’s not biotech, but the high-tech facility and the 500 jobs it could bring would help the local economy, commissioners decided Tuesday.

Once again the taxpayers get played. The County has an overlay called United Technologies Overlay it is on the Beeline Hwy since 1957. Pratt Whitney aka United Tech walked out of this county taking 10,000 jobs with it in 1999. There is ho way in hell the taxpayers should let the CEO and a few…

“This in no way implies that we are giving up on bioscience,” Commissioner Hal Valeche said. “Those efforts are going on.”

Business leaders support allowing United Technologies Corp. to use 30 acres of the 100-acre area intended for biotech companies.

Landing United Technologies Corp. would bring more high-tech jobs and produce “a return on investment,” said Art Menor of the Economic Council of Palm Beach County, which supports the deal.

“We can’t afford not to take advantage of it,” Menor said.

United Technologies Corp. is the parent company of Pratt & Whitney and Sikorsky Aircraft, which already have operations in northern Palm Beach County. It is considering Palm Beach Gardens and locations in North Carolina and Georgia for the proposed “UTC Center for Intelligent Buildings,” according to the county.

The county and state are offering nearly $11 million in incentives to try to convince United Technologies Corp. to choose the Palm Beach Gardens site. That includes tax refund incentives and other local financial support totaling about $3 million, if the company meets job creation requirements.

The exception to allow a non-biotech company onto the 30 acres near Scripps would be contingent on United Technologies Corp. moving there, according to the proposal commissioners supported Tuesday.

It would be built near 70 acres already targeted for a potential expansion of Scripps’ research labs and other facilities.

The county and state expected that Scripps Florida, which opened beside Florida Atlantic University in 2009, would eventually attract pharmaceutical companies and other high-tech businesses that would produce thousands of jobs.

While Scripps met its job creation requirements of producing at least 545 jobs, the bigger biotech boom has yet to follow.

Staff writer Marcia Heroux Pounds contributed to this report.

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