Council helping businesses

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Lewisburg City Council has approved two programs for a couple of businesses so their costs will be lower and new jobs may be created.

A loan of $550,000 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through the state and city is being made for Autom Co. the Phoenix, Ariz.-based church supply business that's moving much of its operation here.

The other program is for Lewisburg Printing, the long-time local business that's buying a large German-made press to expand its business for retail displays and other big print jobs. The city has granted a property tax break for the company.

"We like to get new industry in," Lewisburg Industrial Development Director Terry Wallace said during the City Council meeting last week, "but we also like to take care of those that are here."

Lewisburg Printing is entering a contract for a Payments In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) program that, in this case, defers all personal property taxes on the new machine, but requires payments on a schedule based on he tax rates charged by the city and the county. Payments are zero the first year, but increase by some 20-percent each of five years, after which full property taxes are paid on the press.

"I like the idea of helping a local business," Councilwoman Quinn Brandon said.

"I do too," Mayor Bob Phillips said. "I don't believe they'll be moving to Mexico."

Lewisburg Printing, a business separate from the Marshall County Tribune, but which traces its origins to the same date as this newspaper, 1898, is about t spend $5.5 milion. Some $4.2 million of that will be for the press and related equipment.

The huge investment is the biggest step taken by Lewisburg Printing and it's to create 12-16 jobs, officials have said.

Meanwhile, the loan to the Autom Co. will be handled by Doug Williams, an official with the South Central Tennessee Development District office in Columbia.

"It won't cost us anything," Brandon said to confirm the nature of the city's obligation.

Wallace and others confirmed that and commented on one of the factors that made the loan possible.

"It's important to keep the Three Star Program," Wallace said of a program administered by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

TDECD's Three Star Program rates communities against various standards. They include having a full-time executive director of the state mandated Joint Economic and Community Development Board which oversees housing improvement programs and beautification efforts as well as cooperative steps with educators to improve test scores and student attendance.

"It gets us extra points," Wallace said about the process to participate in programs that help develop businesses that create jobs and when the city applies for utility grants.

The Autom Co. is building a telephone call center, distribution center, warehouse and candle factory in the Lewisburg Business Park just off Mooresville Highway.

The privately-owned business has sought to streamline its operations and lower costs wit a new operations center that's strategically located in the middle of a larger part of the nation where customers and suppliers are located.

An exact number of new jobs may not be known until the company's growth plans are known, but announcements indicate there may be two dozen jobs at Autom in the next few years.

Details of the loan were not discussed at the Council meeting on Tuesday night last week.