State, county, Boca offering growing tech company money to stay put

A Boca Raton-based business that provides emergency response systems promises it will invest $3.6 million into their facility, create 150 jobs, and estimates it will generate $295 million local economic impact.

But there’s a catch: The company wants incentives, otherwise it might move to Alabama where it also has an office.

RELATED: Four Palm Beach County firms make Inc 500 list

While negotiations are underway, county officials and the Business Development Board are referring to the company as “Project Mercury” and aren’t sharing the name of the company publicly. But a source familiar with the negotiations told The Palm Beach Post the business is MobileHelp located in Research Park at Florida Atlantic University.

A MobileHelp spokesperson didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

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To keep the company housed in Palm Beach County, the state, county and city are offering $450,000 in incentives. Through the Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund program, the state will pay $360,000 and local governments would have to come up with $90,000. Boca Raton commissioners in July agreed to give $45,000, and on Tuesday, Palm Beach County commissioners said they’d do the same.

The city and county will give the money to the state, and the state will give the company the $450,000 in tax refunds once all the terms of the deal, including job creation, are met.

If the company moves, not only would the county miss out on the 150 jobs the company said it would create, but it would also lose the 198 positions already here. That’s a risk Palm Beach County Mayor Melissa McKinlay said she doesn’t want to take.

Read: Medical alert system can go nearly anywhere

Just last month the county’s job prospects took a hit when Lockheed Martin Corp. announced it is shuttering key operations at its Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. plant west of Jupiter and laying off about 500 employees.

“I think it’s important that we do what we can to keep our big industry jobs here in Palm Beach County,” McKinlay said.

The county would pay the $45,000 over six years, with $7,500 per year. Boca would also pay it over multiple years, however, city documents don’t specify how many.

The Qualified Target incentive program is available for companies that create high wage jobs in targeted high value-added industries, according to the Enterprise Florida website. The jobs the company said it’ll create come with an average annual wage of $53,298, according to county documents.

MobileHelp is known for its devices for seniors and those with chronic medical conditions who, with a touch of the button, are connected with emergency services whether at home or away. The company has products that can be worn on the wrist as a watch, around the neck, or placed on a table.

Elias Janetis, the founder, created the MobileHelp device with inspiration from his grandmother. Janetis said he was looking for a medical alert system for his grandmother to use — but she wanted one that would work outside of her home instead of only inside. Janetis couldn’t find one that existed, so in 2006, he created it, the company said. At first, Janetis and an engineer were the company’s only employees.

Less than 10 years later, MobileHelp was listed in Inc. 5000’s 2014 and 2015 lists of fastest-growing private companies in the country. It reported $28.8 million in revenue in 2014, according to Inc. 5000’s website.

Staff writer Lulu Ramadan contributed to this story.

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