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Lee County awards $1.8M economic incentive — with a catch

FORT MYERS, Fla. Lee County is taking an IT consulting firm up on its offer to create as many as 600 new jobs.

Lee County awarded up to $1.8 million in economic incentives Tuesday to IT consulting company Gartner Inc.

“These are jobs that are outside of our traditional tourism and construction industry, and they provide great opportunity,” Commissioner Brian Hamman said.

The Connecticut-based firm, which already employs about 1,100 people at its office in Gateway, said the jobs will pay an average of $68,000 a year plus benefits. That’s 150 percent of the average salary in Lee County.

But unlike VR Labs Inc., which was ordered earlier this month to pay back about $4.6 million in job-creating incentives after an indictment alleging fraud, the county won’t give the money to Gartner up front, Hamman said.

The county instead agreed to refund Gartner for the spending it does on the hires and on building the infrastructure necessary to make them.

“This is the taxpayers’ money, and we want to make sure there are safeguards,” Hamman said. “We want to make sure that this company does everything they say they’re going to do before we pay them any money.”

Lee County taxpayer Richard Janish expressed a similar sentiment.

“If they’re straight up, if they’re being fair about everything, it’s a good deal,” Janish said.

A Gartner spokesman said the company appreciates the commission’s approval but declined further comment.

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