On the Mark: For Arthrex, it was actually a better vote

MARK STRAIN

To say that last Tuesday’s Collier County Commission meeting involving Arthrex was unique would be quite an understatement. What followed that meeting has been a bewildering battle of political consequence over an issue that was won not once by Arthrex, but actually twice.

Anyone appearing before the current commission and walking away with even a 3 to 2 majority vote is usually elated, receiving a 4 to 1 is nothing less than miraculous. Yet the 4 to 1 vote in favor of providing them with $2.2 million in incentives is being viewed as a disappointment by Arthrex. This vote could actually prove to be a better alternative.

Arthrex is a huge company and a great asset to Collier County in both job creation, support for our tax base and as an attractor to bringing more people to our area. They have a large facility in north Collier and have land for another facility in Ave Maria; land that they already own and have owned for years. In addition, there is a second location in Ave Maria for a potentially even larger facility that is currently under discussion.

In both areas, north Collier and Ave Maria, Arthrex is contemplating expansion and while the land in North Naples is certainly more valuable than land in Ave Maria, both areas are available for ready for relatively quick expansion.

Previously, Arthrex had applied for and received the ability to obtain economic incentives for expansion to add more jobs under the job creation incentive program. At the time, this would have provided about $1 million in impact fee incentives for the new construction and subsequent jobs being contemplated on their current land in Ave Maria. Last fall, Arthrex withdrew this request around the time Jackson Labs was pursuing their incentives to locate in Ave Maria. Arthrex was an outspoken critic of the process of using tax-supported incentives to the extent they were being proposed for Jackson Labs.

While the tables are somewhat turned, the values are far different between what Arthrex is seeking and what was sought by Jackson Labs. Arthrex is currently applying for assistance that has been standard operating procedure for many years and for values well in line with what has been established.

Even though this may have been perceived by some as an obvious win, it became clear that Arthrex wanted a unanimous vote of all five commissioners, even though only three were necessary to win, or Arthrex might decide to take their business elsewhere. Failing to obtain all five votes however would not necessarily mean an automatic refusal by Arthrex to locate in Collier County.

Regardless of the vote, Arthrex has the flexibility to place their facility wherever they choose, although doing so after receiving a unanimous vote might have appeared a bit disingenuous.

Arthrex did not become a successful company by minimizing their business options. With the economic climate we have in this country and the endless struggle businesses face to continue to do well in today’s constantly changing global market, retaining flexibility can be the difference between success and failure. Retaining flexibility is both a necessary and an expected business choice.

Insisting on a unanimous vote would understandably increase the level of scrutiny from some of the commissioners which in turn jeopardized the desired, yet unnecessary, unanimous outcome. Ironically, a less than unanimous vote could prove more useful for Arthrex.

There are many variables still to come for Arthrex. They have the opportunity to expand in a very well established and valuable area in North Naples alongside their current headquarters. They could create a new facility in Ave Maria if the distance and infrastructure suits their needs. Both Collier locations are on land controlled by a willing seller. They can also choose to respond favorably to their continued efforts to look at Lee County where the potential savings are many millions of dollars as compared to building anew in Ave Maria.

As an independent and sought after business, there are an unlimited variety of options for Arthrex. Had the vote been unanimous last week those options would still have been present, but the decision may have been more difficult if Arthrex were to choose to move out of Collier County after getting the vote they publically committed to. The 4 to 1 vote does not provide the unanimous support politically sought, but it does leave the door open to provide the maximum business flexibility and increases their negotiating abilities to acquire the locations they need right here in this county. Not a bad plan.

For Arthrex this may be the best win they could have received and from a business standpoint better than what was publicly sought. If the desire was to really stay in Collier County, Arthrex should accept their winnings and make the right business decision by building here.

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