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ORLANDO-After receiving offers of a $4.4 million economic incentives package from the city, county and state JetBlue Airways president David Barger has accepted the financial carrot and plans to break ground in the next 12 months on an 80,000-sf flight-training center and a 70,000-sf hangar on the east side of Orlando International Airport.

The projects by the three-year-old New York-based airline have a development value of $158 million.

In a public ceremony at the airport, Barger told local officials the city’s central location in state and the Southeast was a major factor in the airline’s decision to pick Orlando over New York in the final analysis. Several other unnamed cities were also in the running for the construction and development projects.

Barger says the two projects will create about 154 permanent jobs paying an average annual salary of $57,000, or a range of $40,000 to $70,000. Gov. Jeb Bush, a former developer in Miami, said JetBlue’s two projects will boost the metropolitan area’s growing simulator industry which has relied largely on military contracts.

The incentives package includes $1.6 million in tax rebates over 11 years from the city starting in 2006. The airline will also receive another $123,200 in local matching funds under the state’s Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund Program. Orange County is contributing $1.3 million in total tax rebates and the state will be offering $1.42 million in grant funds.

Besides the city, in Florida JetBlue flies to West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers and Tampa.

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