E-mails Question Redpine's Qualification for Economic Development Incentives

Panama City - Redpine Healthcare Technologies was more than $3.5 million in debt when Bay County and the state of Florida agreed to give it $750 thousand in incentives to move here. Bay County's Economic Development Alliance released more information Wednesday on the failed project, including e-mails from former Executive Director Janet Watermeier, that were thought to be lost.

Some of the e-mails show Watermeier questioned if Redpine was a good fit for a state and county incentive, when she first heard about the company. One asked if Redpine was a "start-up", pointing out the state does not typically give incentive grants to start-ups.

She said, "If we needed to make some of the upfront cash award conditional upon a review of financials, will they be strong enough to help someone understand that the investment is worth the risk? Can we make the case that this is not high risk start-up capital for a new venture?"

Watermeier even offered suggestions about Redpine's state application to avoid making the company seem too small. For instance, she was concerned Redpine was planning to start with 5 thousand square feet of space, then move up to 30 thousand by 2015.

She said, "We should probably discuss it with them and it definitely should not go into the application, even if they are thinking about it. It says they are a very small company and the state would not want to lend to such a small company."

CEO Shad Wheeler also listed short term job creation of 120 on the application, instead of the eventual 400 jobs projected by 2015. Again, Watermeier suggested going with bigger numbers, saying "I'm very concerned about the questions this will raise about the level of cash closing funds and 120 vs 400 jobs."

In March of 2011, just before the EDA starting handling the project, Redpine reported nearly $50 thousand in losses. The company went bankrupt in December and now the state and county filed a joint lawsuit to try and get their money back.


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