A couple of weeks ago I read, with interest, a newspaper article about a concrete plant on Rock Road that was getting some pretty hefty tax breaks from St. Lucie County for adding a 15,000 square foot facility to its existing business and promising to add 15 jobs with an average pay of $17.67. It didn’t take me long to call Peter Jones, St. Lucie County’s business navigator, to see if our new Sunrise Volkswagen dealership could get the same deal. After all, we are adding 20 jobs and built a multi-million dollar facility adjacent to Sunrise Ford. I could guarantee the average hourly pay would be significantly more than $17.67 an hour. Unfortunately, Jones told me, Sunrise Volkswagen would not qualify for any tax incentives because it was not a manufacturing facility. St. Lucie County’s board of county commissioners targets only manufacturing businesses for the tax subsidies, and no matter how many jobs Sunrise Volkswagen generated we were out of luck.
That felt worse than rubbing salt into a wound.
Sunrise Volkswagen is an addition to the Sunrise Ford family business that was founded in St. Lucie County in 1932. Sunrise Ford has 95 employees, most of whom live in St. Lucie County. Over the decades we have contributed to numerous local charities and civic organizations.
Just as important, we have paid millions in county property taxes, and in constructing Sunrise Volkswagen, we have added exponentially more to city, county, and state coffers. The big hits were the county and city impact fees, more than $100,000 before the first shovel hit the ground, and the checks kept rolling. One of the first was $314 to the city for a permit for a dumpster at the site. A separate city road impact fee was $1,655. The city also got $250 for a “pre-application” before meeting with our engineer and architect. Building permits totaled in the thousands. The city’s new building permit alone was $7,911. My personal favorite was another city requirement that we purchase a $400 bond that would cover the $50,000 worth of mandated landscaping should all of the new trees and shrubs we planted die and the company that installed them go out of business.
The city and county officials took some of the sting out of paying the fees by being helpful, explaining their processes, and issuing permits in a timely matter. The North St. Lucie River Water Management District was also very accommodating by allowing us to expand our parking area between Sunrise Ford and Sunrise VW.
I did not get a chance to have much interaction with state officials who also got their “fair” share. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection received $400, the two water management districts sent bills for more than $2,500, which was about the same amount as the Florida Department of Transportation.
Today we paid our last two fees; $300 to the state Department of Motor Vehicles for our license, and another $253 for a state permit to sell service contracts.
I have not yet found the nerve to tally up all of the bills, but am relieved that today we can officially open and begin selling new and Certified Pre-Owned Volkswagens as well as used vehicles and repairing all makes and models. Our showroom is stunning and the lineup of new VWs is impressive. After decades of selling Ford trucks, with high end models costing north of $60,000, I was particularly pleased to see that a customer could drive away in a nicely outfitted Jetta for $19,502. Since Ford is phasing out its sedan line, I am also glad we have a large inventory of VW sedans to offer our customers.
Our grand opening is scheduled for May 18, when we will have numerous festivities including giving away a brand new Jetta! In the meantime, we have a full staff in our sales and service departments ready to show you around the new facility. Our address is 5359 South US Highway 1, just north of Sunrise Ford, and our phone number is 772-742-8333 if you want to make an appointment for service or talk to a sales representative. And by all means, please come by before May 18 to sign up for a chance to win that new Jetta. No purchase necessary. Before I left today I realized I had one more state form to complete, the one required if a business is giving away a product. I went online to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs website to download the form. I filled it out and when I got to the end, I saw I needed to pay one more fee, $100 for a permit so I can give a car away…