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Lee County wants answers from VR Labs

Working with $5 million county grant, company's plant sits empty.

Sep. 21, 2012


Lee County officials have asked VR Laboratories LLC executives to provide documentation for the number of jobs the company has created and how much of VR’s own money has been spent on a health drink business subsidized by a $5 million county grant.

Under the terms of the grant, VR is required to create 208 high-paying jobs and make at least $16.4 million in capital expenditures by the end of 2015.

VR has spent $4.7 million of the grant: $2.4 million for bottling equipment and most of the rest for for fitting out an industrial building off Alico Road for its bottling plant.

The building sits empty, however, and VR is embroiled in disputes over payment with its general contractor, GCM Contracting Solutions, and with La Porte, Ind.-based A Packaging System, the company manufacturing the bottling equipment.

County commission Chairman John Manning said Thursday he’s scheduled to meet Thursday with VR CEO Jeff Kottkamp and Robert Gow, a member of the company’s board of directors, to get answers on VR’s progress.

Meanwhile, Lee County Attorney Michael Hunt has sent a letter to VR asking for more documentation on how many jobs it’s created and how much of VR’s own money has been spent.

A review of the company’s most recent annual report, filed Aug. 15, “does not include sufficient supporting documentation to verify the number of employees and wages,” Hunt says in the letter, sent Wednesday evening to Kottkamp, a former lieutenant governor of Florida.

Manning said he intends to ask Kottkamp and Gow “what’s really going on in connection with this issue.”

Kottkamp could not be reached for comment Thursday.

But Manning said “the integrity of the whole incentive program is very much in play here because we have not had a problem since 1996 when we started this program.”

The progress report filed Aug. 15 by VR lists positions and salaries for the company’s nine employees, but nothing more.

“Kindly submit the payroll employee reports, including names, hire date and salary for the personnel identified in the annual report filed last month,” the letter requests. “In addition, please include copies of W-2 forms for each employee.”

The letter also asks for documentation for capital expenditures made by VR “other than the incentive awards disbursed by the county.”

The News-Press previously has requested similar documentation from VR, but the company has not provided it.

Connect with this reporter:@DickHogan (Twitter)

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