TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Former Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp has left his position as CEO of a health drink company that so far isn’t fulfilling commitments to create jobs after taking a $5 million grant from Lee County.
The company, Bonita Springs-based VR Laboratories, accepted a $5 million economic incentive grant from Lee County with the promise of creating 40 full time jobs by the end of 2012 and 208 jobs by the end of 2016. But the money is nearly gone, few jobs have been created and the bottling plant that the company said it would open is in limbo. The company has blamed the delay on a dispute with a contractor and the county has given it a one-year extension to keep its promises.
“I decided to leave VR Laboratories last month. I am focusing my career on the law and the legislative process,” Kottkamp said in an email to The Associated Press Wednesday night. “I wish VR well. Their success will be good for the community.”
Kottkamp served under then-Governor Charlie Crist from 2007 to 2011. He sought the Republican nomination for attorney general in 2010.
Kottkamp took the position with VR Laboratories in late 2011, after it had received the grant. His salary was $240,000 a year, according to documents the company submitted to Lee County officials. He was one of nine full-time employees the company hired after receiving the grant, according to a document VR Laboratories submitted to the county.
“Mr. Kottkamp is a very talented person. The VR Labs team will miss him, but understands his desire to accept another opportunity,” said Kay Gow, who runs the company with her husband, Robert Gow.
The company sells a dozen health drinks under the V!ah name brand; the company says its products help users with issues such as stomach acid, sleep problems, stress, lack of energy and more. The active ingredients listed on the products include a green tea extract and other botanical extracts. They are described as dietary supplements and their claims have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
While numerous other companies sell similar products with the same botanical ingredients, the company claims it has discovered a new way of extracting the health benefits from plants that makes them more effective.
Those claims, however, are dubious, according to Paul Doering, a professor at the University of Florida’s College of Pharmacy.
“I was pretty unimpressed,” Doering said, adding he has seen similar claims made by many others.
“It looks to me like, OK, same song maybe a different key this time,” Doering said. “If these dietary supplements really do what they claim to do, it wouldn’t be such a well-kept secret. There’s a Nobel Prize waiting for somebody’s mantel if they actually do these things.”
The company lists Yale professor James Rothman as its chief scientific adviser. Rothman didn’t return a phone message and an email sent last week seeking comment on the products.
The Gows, of Naples, earned their fortune through real estate development and investments. Robert Gow has also led companies that have had business ventures in China and Argentina. Both also run HerbalScienceGroup, LLC in Bonita Springs, which developed the extracts and licenses them to VR Labratories.
HerbalScienceGroup’s website claims it has “accomplished one of the most important health technology breakthroughs in recorded history.”
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.