Potential employers sought, described

Friday, March 26, 2010

Five prospective businesses were described to Lewisburg's City Council and its Industrial Development Board this week by the board's attorney and the city's industrial developer.

Jobs for 25 to 500 people would come to Lewisburg, depending on which business lands here, according to information from IDB Attorney Robert Binkley and Industrial Developer Terry Wallace.

"We've got 20 percent unemployment and we're trying," IDB Chairman Eddie Wiles said, recognizing that people trying to attract employers to town face new demands from prospective industries.

"What's changed is the nature of the requests; what people are asking," Wiles said. Potential new businesses are "aggressively" asking for concessions.

He also noted some residents are dismayed that the city did not give land to Sanford for an ink factory here. Sanford accepted free land near Manchester and is trenching through rock for construction, according to discussion at the Tuesday afternoon meeting.

Binkley's list describes the prospects with nicknames since confidentiality is requested to maintain a competitive edge for the businesses.

They are:

* ROOTS would invest $45 million to establish operations in a 160,000-square-foot building funded by bonds on 20 acres that the business wants at no cost. About 500 jobs would be developed in five years and the company wants a PILOT agreement. A Payment In Lieu Of Taxes contract defers property taxes over a period of time. Typically, a 10-year contract has the tax bill increase by 10 percent annually until the full amount is paid annually thereafter.

* XXL would invest $6 million, develop 60 jobs in two years and operate in a 60,000 square foot building on five acres. It wants the land at no cost, a PILOT and bond financing for the building.

* LPI would invest $20 million, create 105-135 jobs and conduct business in a 70,000 square foot building including 10,000 square feet for offices. LPI wants 10-15 acres at no cost and a PILOT.

* LOCAL would invest $750,000 for equipment and create 25 jobs this year. It wants a PILOT and a lease with the option to buy land.

* RESTAURANT would create two full-time jobs and 38-48 part-time jobs paying $800,000 in wages annually. Sales would be $1.25 million annually, thereby generating $28,000 in local sales taxes. The business would make a $1.4 million investment. That would improve the property value so it would pay $6,100 in property taxes. The business also wants a PILOT.

"The top four are brand new," Binkley said. One wants a proposal soon.

The first three put Lewisburg in competition with nearby communities, he said.

"They all want to be close to a seaport," Binkley said. That's within a day's drive, so Lewisburg qualifies because of Cumberland River docks since barges pass through locks to be lowered to sea level, and Mobile and New Orleans.

"We know it's tough and don't want to take something off the table," Wiles said. "'No cost land;' That's something we've not done."

Because the joint session was a workshop, no vote was taken. Binkley said no consensus was reached by councilmen on changing policies.