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    Dunedin offers Nielsen millions to stay

    Nielsen employs about 2,600 in and around Dunedin.

    By LEON M. TUCKER

    © St. Petersburg Times, published November 2, 2000


    DUNEDIN -- Dunedin has raised the ante in its bid to retain the city's largest employer, offering Nielsen Media and Research local, county and state incentives worth about $6-million.

    The city has offered $2.9-million in tax abatements and waived fees. Pinellas County and the state have combined to offer another $3.1-million in reimbursements, waived fees and suspended taxes.

    Company representatives did not reply to messages Wednesday, and they have not responded to Dunedin's offer.

    Dunedin officials say they may have some competition in their bid to retain the company, listing Oldsmar, just a few miles to the east of Dunedin, and Atlanta, where Nielsen's parent company has an office.

    "From what we know at this point there are three sites," said Dunedin Mayor Tom Anderson. "Atlanta, Oldsmar and Dunedin."

    Details on talks involving Atlanta were not available Wednesday, and city officials there with knowledge of the matter could not be reached.

    Oldsmar Mayor Jeffrey Sandler said he couldn't discuss anything involving Nielsen.

    "I have heard the same rumors and as to whatever is fact, unfortunately I'm not at liberty to discuss," he said. "I don't really know exactly where the negotiation the county is having with them stands."

    County officials said the county's incentives were valid outside Dunedin. But if Nielsen chooses to leave the city for another Pinellas County site, its options are somewhat limited by the size of its operation, local real estate sources said. There are not many properties left in development-heavy Pinellas that could support a 570,000-square-foot building.

    Among the properties that could support Nielsen are the 400-acre Tampa Bay Park of Commerce in Oldsmar, Carillon and Gateway Centre business parks in St. Petersburg and a 72-acre tract along U.S. 19 in Tarpon Springs that was once designated as a headquarters for ABR.

    St. Petersburg also is seeking a buyer for 122 acres on the west side of Interstate 275 near Carillon. City officials say they prefer a company that will build a 600,000-square-foot building and generate at least 1,800 jobs.

    Nielsen, which employs about 2,600 people in and around Dunedin, wants to consolidate operations in a facility that is larger than its current 211,000-square-foot building there. The company wants approximately 570,000 square feet, city officials have said, and it would add about 600 jobs if it expands.

    In August, Pinellas County commissioners agreed to pay $360,000 toward a $1.8-million county and state tax refund package for Nielsen.

    On Wednesday, Dunedin Economic Development Director Bob Ironsmith identified more than $4-million in additional assistance that would be made available to the company if it agrees to stay:

    $1.4-million in city funds would be spent to acquire property from Time Warner, which owns 6 acres adjacent to Nielsen's property. Nielsen would lease the property back from the city.

    $750,000 would be available from the state for the reimbursement of training costs incurred by company if it sends new employees to training classes.

    $285,000 Nielsen would be responsible for paying toward county transportation fees would be waived or paid.

    $250,000 from the state's Governor's Closing Fund would be awarded.

    50 percent of what the company would pay on city land and building property taxes over a 10-year period would be suspended, amounting to $870,000.

    50 percent of what the company would pay on personal property taxes on computers and other system-oriented equipment would be suspended, at a price of $350,000 over 10 years.

    $285,000 in transportation impact fees in the city would be waived.

    "They basically asked us to put together a package to submit to them so they can look at the pros and cons in each of the areas," Ironsmith said.

    "The staff attempted to tailor the incentives based on the future opportunities that Nielsen presented with the creation of additional office space and 600 new jobs," Ironsmith continued. "We offer incentives in order to get a new revenue stream that would only be there as a result of their expansion. It's pretty powerful. "It's a doable deal," Ironsmith said. "We feel we have worked very hard to put a very competitive incentive package together and are continuing to work on it. We have a very committed staff and commission, and with the ability of the city, we know we can get it done."

    - Staff writer Edie Gross contributed to this report.

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