Aaron Bell
Aaron C. Bell, Vice President of Science First

An opinion submitted by Aaron C. Bell

Vice President – Science First

There have recently been articles concerning the Nassau County Economic Development Board (NCEDB) , economic development, and Terrapointe. It is easy to be of two minds about economic development. Everyone wants to have accessibility to good jobs, but do we need more people moving here, more traffic on our beautiful winding canopy roads and more activity?

As 2012-2013 Chairman of NCEDB and Vice President of Science First, a small manufacturing business in our third generation of family ownership, I can answer a resounding “yes.” I wanted to give my personal perspective on the need for groups like the Nassau County Economic Development Board and economic development in general.

My business was founded in 1960 by my grandfather, a science teacher. For almost 50 years we were located in Buffalo NY, our home.

Science First 2Buffalo used to be a good place to locate a business such as ours – one that relied on production workers and small garage-shop vendors. We had steel mills, flour mills, a flourishing trade on Lake Erie and a ready supply of hard-working people. My business started out making science equipment for schools. We sold to dealers and schools all over the country, so we were not tied to the national economy.

But Buffalo changed; the mills moved away, the trade trickled off, and the hard-working people were without work. As a business, we managed, because we were family-owned and careful with our resources, but, in the end, even we grew tired of all the challenges facing a large, poor rust belt city.

In 2009 we moved our entire company to Nassau County. It was an endeavor that took us a year in planning and forced us to operate our company in two locations.

What made us move our company and take our 20 jobs, our need for a new building, and all our ancillary business from New York State to Florida?  Taxes. Regulations. Difficulty getting things done. The fact that if you constructed a building, it would be worth little more than a third of what you paid to build it.  The fact that property taxes on a home worth $100,000 would be nearly $4000 per year.  The 9% state income tax or the 9% state sales tax.  The fact that the county Buffalo sits in, which is the size of Jacksonville (both in land area and size), had 29 school districts and 44 municipalities.

Nassau County Economic Development - FullWhat made us choose Nassau County? In a word, the people of Nassau County, from the County Commissioners that met with us, to the Executive Director of NCEDB – Steve Rieck, to the cashiers in the stores and servers in the restaurants.  We could see that Nassau County was a special place where people worked together to improve the community for everyone.

Steve helped us by providing information on the work force, the infrastructure, the proximity to the port of Jacksonville and the airport, and the nature of the local government. He helped us tour the county in our quest for land on which to build our 25,000 square foot manufacturing facility. We had one person to turn to, one person who would connect us with others as needed. His staff, which consisted of Noelle Perry at the time, now ably replaced by Nicole White, was of immense assistance as well.

The County Commission helped by having development rules and regulations that provided certainty in the process, along with a 30 day review period for our building plans.

The Nassau community helped also, from our capable employees to the vendors we buy from to all the wonderful people I have met in my four years living here

Nassau County needs good jobs. We need working people and families. We are not all retired folk – at least, not yet. I feel it is easy to lose sight of the need to help young people such as myself to work, own homes, raise their children and give back to the community.  Most parents hope that their children can find a job locally and stay in the community where they grew up.

There are also some purely economic reasons to favor responsible economic development.  A study by the Fishkind group found that single family homes consumed nearly $1.50 in services for every dollar paid in taxes.  For responsible industrial development, these numbers are significantly different.  An industrial development places very few demands on the school system, for example, yet pays taxes just like everyone else.  Industrial uses consume little in the way of police, fire/rescue services or recreational services, yet their taxes pay for each.  In fact, industrial development typically receives less than fifty cents for every dollar paid in taxes.  This holds true even if the development is in western Nassau County at the Crawford Diamond – the taxes these developments pay go towards reducing county or school taxes or increasing services in Fernandina, Yulee, Hilliard, Bryceville, Callahan – the entire county.

I am very happy that Nassau County is the place I have chosen to live, work, and raise my family.

September 19, 2013 8:06 a.m.

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