Linde Gas North America LLC is the first Wacker Polysilicon North America supplier to locate within the footprint of the new plant under construction west of Charleston. Linde Gas will invest $25 million to build a hydrogen production facility that will result in approximately seven full-time jobs.
Doug Berry, Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce vice president of Economic Development, said the original agreement specified that any company locating on Wacker’s existing property would fall under the same tax and payment in lieu of taxes agreements as Wacker.
Also relating to Wacker, IDB members approved a modification to the Feb. 29, 2009, PILOT agreement between the county and Wacker to grant the company a one-time reduction in its lieu of tax obligations in the amount of $1 million. Wacker requested the reduction after announcing it was increasing its investment from $1 billion, then $1.5 billion and now to $1.8 billion.
The original PILOT agreement specified the company would pay full property taxes for 2009 and 2010, estimated to be $150,000 per year. Beginning Jan. 1, 2011, during the three-year construction period ending Dec. 31, 2013, the company would pay no taxes while the plant is under construction. As of Jan. 1, 2014, Wacker will pay in lieu of tax payments to Bradley County in the amount of 50 percent of its real and personal property taxes for a period of 25 years until Dec. 31, 2038. The total estimated in lieu of tax payment for 25 years was estimated at that time to be $44.8 million. That amount has risen with the size of the investment to the neighborhood of $80 million, not including Linde Gas.
The second part of the PILOT agreement allows company affiliates, associates, subsidiaries and customers who locate inside the 550-acre footprint to receive the same tax incentive package over the same 25-year period.
On a separate issue, Berry said after the meeting that Bradley County was never considered for a Volkswagen parts warehouse because it is within 50 miles of the Chattanooga production plant.
Volkswagen Group of America is investing $40 million to build a warehouse in Roane County for distributing domestic auto parts for the Chattanooga-made Passat. The 400,000-square-foot facility is expected to open by spring 2013 and will employ up to 45 people by 2016.
The warehouse is a redistribution center that will service other warehouses and later expand to include a parts distribution center supporting the United States, Canada and Mexico. The parts distribution operation will improve service parts delivery times to more than 100 dealers in surrounding regions.
Berry said Roane County sold the property for the cost of assembling adjacent properties needed for the warehouse. Also, the company will receive a 100 percent tax abatement for 10 years.
Concerning local industry, Berry said he is talking to 10 existing manufacturing companies about expansion, equipment and facility upgrades.
“We could have up to $50 million in new investment from existing industry if all these triggers are pulled and it could create up to 150 new jobs,” he said. “That’s a very good indicator for us.”
There has been an upward trend of inquiries from existing and new industries.
“When I came here in 2009, I had very few existing industry inquiries,” he said. “From what I’m hearing, it’s pretty unique to us to have this many industries to grow. I think its a reflection of the quality of companies we’ve got.”
Berry said expansion is an indication the industries are comfortable with their relationships in the community and the workforce, and they want to continue to invest here.
“That Olin is rebuilding is a huge indicator because there are many, many communities that would put a lot on the table to attract that investment. For us to hold our own and keep them is a good sign,” he said.
Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland commented that Hardwick Clothes has added JetBlue to its list of airline uniforms.
Berry said companies are beginning to review overseas manufacturing operations and “we’re actually competing to bring jobs back to America.”
Some of the companies are looking for ways to improve efficiency and improve revenue by reducing transportation costs. Some expansions are motivated by shipping products to overseas markets, particularly China.
“We have world-class industry here and some of them are home-grown,” Berry said.
He said Cleveland and Bradley County should develop a trans-loading facility in conjunction with the railroad.