15-25 jobs to be added

Friday, July 6, 2012

By Karen Hall

Staff Writer

More jobs will be available when a local business adds another specialized machine and, toward that end, the company is requesting a tax break on new personal property.

Lewisburg Printing CEO Hale Hawkins attended the Industrial Development Board's meeting Tuesday and explained his company was looking at adding a second huge printing press. Like the first one, it will be able to print a 51-by-72.5-inch sheet, but the new machine will also be able to print plastics and foils of that size.

"Business has doubled since 2009 when we put in the first one," Hawkins said. "We've added 17 people in two years, and we'll now add 15 to 25 more."

In response to questions, Hawkins stated Lewisburg Printing currently employs about 97 people, while its sister business Hawk Converting employs nine.

"It's a nice local success story," said IDB Chairman Eddie Wiles.

"They have turned in a PILOT application for $5.5 million," Economic Development Director Greg Lowe said.

PILOT agreements lower payments by property owners to the government through a Payment In Lieu Of Tax (PILOT) schedule. The agreements place the property in the hands of a local government so they're tax-free. The agreement outlines a schedule of payments that, therefore, are not tax payments.

"We're proposing a three-year PILOT," Lowe said. "Next month we (the IDB) will have to approve it and send it to the city council. They have paid their fee of $2,500" to apply for the PILOT contract.

"Congratulations. That's great," exclaimed board member Dave Kennedy.

A three-year Payment In Lieu Of Tax agreement defers taxes on the new equipment for three years, but payments are made in growing amounts based on the value of the new equipment and the local property tax rates.

In other developments regarding local industries, Lowe reported Heartfelt Home Accents is now hiring, and wants to work up to 50 jobs in the next three to five years.

"A couple of local companies are expanding," Lowe said, and he is working on customized workforce training for one of them.

Another existing company is "in the beginning stages" of developing a completely different additional business, Lowe said.

"For a long time we had the opposite taking place," he pointed out.

Seeing Lewisburg and Marshall County as a newcomer, Lewisburg City Manager Tommy Engram says he thinks things are not so bad here.

"You all are in incredibly good shape," he said. "Lewisburg has more industries and jobs that anyone would guess for a town this size."

"It used to be a lot better," Wiles told him, remembering the days of unemployment under 5 percent, and high school seniors who got good factory jobs the week after they graduated.

Now, education seems to be the key to everything. Lowe pointed out that a skilled workforce is still No. 1 on the site selection list, and students have to start as early as middle school to get the career and technical education they need.

Engram pointed out that the quality of local schools is also important for industries bringing in management personnel with families.

He suggested a science and technology charter school within an existing school.

"The key is, students have to qualify," Engram said. "It makes it an academy of excellence."

Lowe has a vision of recruiting middle school students, based on their TCAP scores, to a program that will take them through high school, on to a scholarship at Tennessee Tech, an engineering degree, and finally a job at CKNA - or another local company.

Marshall Medical Center is already doing something similar. The hospital will pay for a nurse's training if the nurse signs a two-year contract to work at MMC when the student completes the training, County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett said.

Liggett and Sen. Jim Tracy drove out Mooresville Highway Tuesday morning to look at the widening project, which some people feel has dragged on too long.

"Tracy's very interested in helping us get it done," Liggett reported. "He saw no reason it could not be finished in October as scheduled."

Once State Route 373 is finished, attention can turn to beautifying the I-65 Commerce Park with a new sign, a park area in front, and the road through the park paved all the way to Project Cloud's new building and the city's spec building.

"Building that road is the first step to making that park look great and more marketable," Lowe said. "We're competing with neighboring counties who have parks more attractive."

Lowe said he was part of the way through an application to the Select Tennessee Certified Sites program, and aims to have Lewisburg and its industrial sites one of the first on the SelectTennessee.com Web site.