The county had approved a 10-year, $680,000 performance-based incentive package for Discovery World Furniture to relocate to Flagler, but land- and schedule-related problems made that infeasible, according to its CEO.
A furniture assembly company that had planned to build a 250,000-square-foot facility on U.S. 1 — creating 50 jobs with an average salary of $51,000 per year, county officials had expected — will not be coming to Flagler County after all.
"We just ran into too many problems with the property itself," said Discovery World Furniture CEO Anthony Lupo. "It was a total timing issue: We needed everything to happen in succession. ... I really wanted to get it done. We told all of our employees we were moving."
The County Commission had unanimously approved a 10-year, $680,000 performance-based incentive package for the company to move to Flagler. For now, the company will remain where it is and will not relocate, Lupo said.
A central issue was that the parcel of land under consideration didn't have water and sewer: It would have required a connection to the city of Ormond Beach, requiring the city's approval. Meanwhile, Discovery World Furniture had a tight construction deadline. Lupo had hoped to start construction by the end of the year, so that the work could be done before the rainy season starts. When Ormond delayed a decision on the proposal to extend utilities to the parcel, that threw off the timeline, Lupo said.
"The last time they had a vote, they voted to agree to continue to talk about it, and that’s when I said, 'I’m out,'" Lupo said. "We couldn’t turn it around quick enough, and I didn’t have any sense that Ormond Beach was going to be cooperative."
Unable to determine when the move to the new facility might actually take place, the company also found it difficult to sell its current facility, as potential buyers couldn't be told when it would be vacated.
Lupo noted that there could have been other issues that might have scuttled the proposal even without the water and sewer issue. For instance, geotechnical reports could have turned up problems with the land. Discovery World Furniture had not had those conducted because it did not make sense to pay to do so as long as the water issue remained unresolved, Lupo said.
But he was complimentary about Flagler County's handling of the process.
"Flagler County ... did everything in their power to get us to do this," he said. "I would give Flagler County five stars from stem to stern. The Economic Development committee, the Building Department, the Fire Department — just every single person that I talked to; the County Commissioner … [Joe] Mullins, he really tried to help me. Flagler County couldn’t have done anything more than what they’ve done to try to get us there."
Lupo said he did not rule out the possibility that the company could consider a relocation to Flagler County at some future time. Flagler County Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Helga van Eckert said he had told her he'd consider Flagler County if the company does indeed decide to relocate in the future.
"It’s disappointing that the project didn’t turn out to be viable for the company to locate to the county," van Eckert said. "We have a great relationship with the owners of the company, and as they continue to grow and when they are ready to expand, we are hopeful that they will come back to speak to us. ... It’s a great company, and it would be wonderful if they were to eventually expand in our county."