Florida East Coast Industries wants to build a $250 million liquefied natural gas production and distribution plant on undeveloped land it owns west of U.S. 1 in Titusville — a project the company says would be the first of its kind in Florida.
Company officials say the plant would offer the region a supply of clean-burning fuel; create construction and permanent jobs; spur spinoff businesses; and generate millions of dollars a year in property taxes for Brevard County, Titusville and the Brevard Public Schools.
“Natural gas will be critical to the region,” said Husein Cumber, executive vice president of corporate development for Florida East Coast Industries. “We saw an opportunity to fill that gap. As we look at where the demand is, we see the Space Coast as being a location that we need one of these facilities in order to continue economic growth.”
Liquefied natural gas can be use for some trucks, cargo ships, water pumps, generators and as rocket fuel.
Company officials say LNG is about 30 percent cheaper than diesel as a fuel source.
“I think it’s pretty exciting,” said Brevard County Commission Chairman Robin Fisher, whose commission district includes Titusville. “It’s innovative. They’re taking a lead on alternative fuels. I think it’s a great project.”
Matt Davis, Florida East Coast Industries’ point person on the project, said his company likes Titusville for the project because it is at the center of a growing aerospace industry; is near Port Canaveral; has a “business-friendly” climate; has a supply of skilled high-tech workers; and is near a strong road and rail network. The nearby freight rail network is operated by sister company Florida East Coast Railway.
“We need a community that’s supportive,” Davis said. “We need people that understand this, and want development, and want to be sort of the leader in this alternative-fueling industry.”
Davis said the project would create about 40 direct and spinoff jobs, including about 15 at the plant itself. It also would create more than 300 construction jobs.
As part of its initial briefings, company officials have met with a representative of the North Brevard Economic Development Zone. Because the liquefied natural gas project is a commercial development within the zone’s boundaries, that entity could receive some of the property tax revenue stemming from the new construction, and use it to help spur economic development in the North Brevard area, under a setup approved by the Brevard County Commission and the Titusville City Council. This process is one that was implemented previously for Florida Power & Light Co.’s $1 billion-plus natural-gas-fueled power plant in Port St. John.
The North Brevard Economic Development Zone also is a potential source of financial incentives for the project, although Florida East Coast Industries has made no such request so far.
Officials of Port Canaveral and Space Coast Regional Airport say their support the LNG project. The plant would encompass 22 acres on a 65-acre site, and would be within the boundary of Florida East Coast Industries’ Titusville Logistics Center, which also will include a complex of five warehouses the company plans to build on other vacant land it owns. Davis said the first of those five buildings will be leased to Port Canaveral.
Fisher said he is pleased to see that land being developed.
And so is Cumber.
“Vacant land doesn’t create economic development,” Cumber said