Tri-City Ledger -

By Gretchen McPherson
Staff Writer 

Company pulls out of Century deal over the town's 'negative rhetoric'

Project Fusion had proposed to bring jobs to the town with deal on industrial building


November 19, 2020

Monday night, the Century Council discussed a letter from Beck Partners the town received that Project Fusion is canceling the contract for the building and the land in Century Industrial park located in Century, citing the company 'would rather not be part of any negative rhetoric'.

The company Project Fusion had put in a bid in September to purchase the town's vacant industrial building, previously occupied by Starter Sportswear and others, with the long-term anticipation that it would bring 15 jobs the first year, with on-the-job training, a range of qualifications for employees, and competitive benefits and salary package.

According to Century Mayor Henry Hawkins, Town Attorney Matt Dannheiser gave comments on the proposed contract, advising what the town should and should not do to comply, and representatives of the company incorrectly got a copy and 'took it personally'.

“They just decided they were being kicked to the curb, so they went ahead and pulled the plug,” said Mayor Hawkins.

The approval to accept the bid from Project Fusion over West Florida Gin's bid in September came in a 3 to 2 vote, with Councilwoman Ann Brooks and Councilwoman Brenda Spencer voting no and Councilman Luis Gomez, Councilman James Smith and Councilwoman Sandra McMurray Jackson voting yes.

“We had the votes,” said Gomez. “I want everybody, including the press, to know, I have been in contact with Beck Partners also, and Florida West, and this project, ever since the first day we voted, to let these people come in and bring jobs and opportunities to the town of Century, it has been sandbagged, stymied and stalled on purpose, all the way down to the cancelled meeting, because we did not even have an agenda packet in our agenda packet. I still don't know, nor do I care, the reason why that property out there is not occupied by outsiders at the cost of citizens. It was stalled for 28 days, without any response. It was very unprofessional.”

Gomez said he feels that the town finally got a serious customer to bring jobs and that at every turn, they were sand bagged, saying he did not blame them for pulling out.

“Something has to change in the town of Century,” said Gomez. “This was done on purpose. Century is never going to grow, Century's never going to prosper, Century is always going to be the laughing stock of the county until we find what the problem is with the leaders of this town.”

Gomez pointed out the 80 or so $15 per hour and higher jobs Project Fusion had proposed in the next five years were lost from the town letting Pensacola bring debris from the storm to be dumped on the property there.

“If I buy a house and I am waiting to close on it, and I come by and see vagrants in the house, I'm going to wonder what people are doing on the property I am trying to purchase,” said Gomez. “Now we've got $2,000 worth of power bills for the property that was supposed to have gone to Beck. I don't blame them. When it's all said and done, everyone who is involved will be exposed, and I will let the town of Century citizens make their choice, but it definitely is not Luis Gomez.”

Gomez said he suspects there is an unknown reason the property has not been utilized and Councilman James Smith agreed.

“Something is not right about this whole ordeal,” said Smith. “There has been some shady stuff going on. We can't pinpoint what it is, but something isn't right about the whole thing. Once again, someone comes in and wants to bring businesses in here and the town of Century leaders are trying to stop that from happening.”

Gomez noted that town attorney Dannheiser was against the project from the start and that he is the one who wrote the letter to Interim City Manager Vernon Prather to condemn the deal. Gomez said that's the point he believes Project Fusion and its partners decided that their name and business would be damaged if they continued to try to make a deal with the town of Century.

Councilwoman Sandra McMurray Jackson was not present.


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