Councilman wants to withdraw tax incentive vote for Chinese company Jinko Solar amid federal probe

JACKSONVILLE, Florida. – Councilman Matt Carlucci is asking the Jacksonville City Council to suspend the vote on a $2.3 million grant for Jinko Solar on Tuesday night.

His appeal comes after federal agents and the Department of Homeland Security executed a search warrant Monday at the China-based company’s solar panel factory at the Cecil Commerce Center. Homeland Security did not disclose the reason for the warrant, but said it was part of an ongoing federal investigation.

“We cannot, in good conscience and in light of an active federal investigation, move forward. Until the investigations are complete, I believe that we – as elected leaders and guardians of this city – should pause on any further legislation, licensing and/or funding. I hope a positive outcome prevails and our city can continue to grow and diversify,” Carlucci wrote in an email to city council members.

Carlucci said one of his concerns was who was involved in the investigation.

“The biggest thing I was concerned about is homeland security,” he said. “It’s 23 miles from our naval base, near our schools and near Boeing. I don’t want to make any accusations and I hope the best for everyone.

According to the Jacksonville Daily Record, the company said it plans to invest more than $52 million in its Cecil Commerce Center plant and create another 250 jobs by 2026 if the city accepts a $2.3 grant. million dollars over 10 years. The tax incentive would be equal to 50% of the increase in ad valorem taxes paid by the company during the first 10 years.

Chinese company Jinko Solar opened the 283,652 square foot facility in the fourth quarter of 2018 to manufacture solar panels for residential and commercial use across the United States. This is the company’s only US manufacturing facility.

Carlucci said he did not want to postpone the vote but withdraw it, but the position of other board members was unclear as of Tuesday afternoon.

“If you withdraw it, it takes that red flag off the agenda and allows us to reintroduce the bill when the investigation is complete,” Carlucci said.

Carlucci said the survey could also be a learning opportunity.

“There could be a message here for us as city council and administration to double down a bit when we look at businesses, whatever they are, about tax incentives,” he said.

When Jinko Solar first arrived in Jacksonville, the city accepted a $3.2 million grant, with the company announcing it would invest $40 million and create 200 jobs.

The Jacksonville City Council is scheduled to meet to discuss the agenda at 5 p.m.

Several other city council members agree with Carlucci’s proposal to withdraw the legislation until more is known, including Councilman Nick Howland and City Council Speaker Terrance Freeman. News4JAX has contacted Jinko Solar officials about the federal investigation, but has not yet received a response.

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