Velocita: New ‘town,’ 5,000 jobs?
After all, new Rockdale-sized towns with 5,000 jobs, world-class research facilities, $2-billion in tax base value and $315 million in base annual payroll don’t come along every year.
Alcoa has announced plans to enter into negotiations with Florida-based Velocita to sell just over 11,000 acres of its former Rockdale Operations.
Hutchison says Velocita wants to build one of the world’s most innovative research and development and technology transfer complexes.
Why here? “It’s an opportunity,” Hutchison told The Reporter. “It’s a perfect home. The infrastructure is already there. There’s a railroad, roads, much more.”
FUNDING— While Alcoa and Velocita anticipate a four-month process to work out details of the property transfer, Hutchison says the funding for some of the first structures in the ambitious project has already been secured.
There’s even a famous name involved in the project. “Emerson Fittipaldi is one of our investors,” Hutchison said.
Fittipaldi is a two-time Indianapolis 500 and Formula One (grand prix) champion.
“We will be working hand-in-hand with the county government,” Hutchison said. “We may also have to go before the state legislature.”
He said a Municipal Utility District (MUD) of some kind is also envisioned.
THINK TANK— Veolicita sees its Sandow project as “next generation” and “green” and Hutchison isn’t kidding.
At its heart, the complex would feat ure a center for applied research and testing of ideas that are envisioned to re-shape technology, and life, for future generations.
Those ideas could include alternative energy systems, community infrastructures, manufacturing platforms, “cloud” community computer systems, robotics, wind tunnel programs for architecture, vehicle and watercraft and more, Hutchison said.
The first building planned would be a 750,000-square foot research facility with a wind tunnel, Hutchison said.
He said the tunnel’s immediate uses could include testing highspeed marine craft.
“In a couple of years (after the project is up and running) you would see about 1,800 jobs here,” he said.
Over a dozen years that figure should grow to 5,000, he estimated.
COMMUNITY— As the concept grows and takes hold, Velocita’s master plan calls for an urban city core, featuring businesses, parks, schools, organic “heritage ranching and farming” and, of course, homes.
“We w ill have universities coming here to do research,” Hutchison said.
“And we plan to be good neighbors (to Rockdale),” he said. “We want to work with communities in the area.”
The company’s bottom line goal “Velocita is what will be...the next generation.”
IMPAC T— L ong-term, t he facility projects 5 million square feet of retail, office, commercial and research and development space.
Hutchison notes 3 million square feet (Alcoa buildings) already exist.
What if A lcoa re-opens its smelter? Company officials have said Alcoa would become a tenant of Velocita.
In this summer’s Alcoa-Luminant litigation, Luminant lead attorney Barry Barnett predicted Alcoa would declare its Rockdale smelter permanently shut down in 2013.
Alcoa has said the proposed agreement includes the land under the smelter, but has no effect on Alcoa’s atomizer or Luminant’s power plants and mines.
“It’s still very early and we have a lot of work to do,” Hutchison said. “But we’re ver y excited about this project.”