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Air Products to Build LNG Equipment Manufacturing Facility At Port Manatee, Florida

Air Products, a firm that produces equipment to process liquefied natural gas, plans to purchase 30 acres at Eastport Industrial Park in Palmetto, Florida, near Port Manatee, to construct a 300,000-square- foot manufacturing plant, creating an estimated 250 jobs.

Workers at the plant will transforms natural gas into liquid form for easier transport to markets. The company, which has a similar facility in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., will use Port Manatee to ship the large machines worldwide.

Sharon Hillstrom, president and chief executive officer of the Manatee Economic Development Corp, said "the company's need to be near a deep-water port to train new employees, it will require for highly specialized manufacturing, gave Manatee County the edge over competing communities for these high-impact jobs.

"Port officials and the Manatee EDC have been eyeing this potential since the county created an incentive zone around the port, and the port's facilities have been expanded and upgraded," Hillstrom added.

"Air Products investigated potential locations in the East Coast and Gulf Coast regions, looking for the right combination of deep-water port access and workforce availability," said Sandy McLauchlin, general manager at the company's Pennsylvania facility. "The Manatee EDC was instrumental in identifying possible properties that would meet our requirements. Both local and state government officials have also been very supportive of our efforts in Manatee County. They offered a number of programs to assist Air Products in assessing possible sites and supporting a tight schedule for construction."

"The number of potential LNG projects in the pipeline is at an all-time high due to the strong demand for cleaner fuels in growing economies worldwide. Several of the projects on the horizon will require the largest heat exchangers we have ever built and the new location does not face the same shipping constraints of our current location," said Jim Solomon, director of LNG at Air Products. "We believe the site we have selected in Florida offers exactly what we need. The new facility will be built at a deepwater port location with the flexibility to produce our LNG offerings without any physical shipping restrictions."

While the exact amount of the firm's investment was not immediately available, as part of an incentive package the state committed $1.75 million, while Manatee County approved up to $680,000 in performance-based incentives based on job creation. The county also approved a transportation impact fee incentive estimated at $46,876.

In addition to the government-funded incentives, Air Products also qualified for Florida Power and Light's reduced basic electric rate, designed to attract new companies to the state. CareerEdge, a private, non-profit, workforce cooperative, pledged $100,000 to provide customized training in welding at Manatee Technical Institute.

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