Steps taken toward more employment in Lewisburg

Friday, March 22, 2013

By Clint Confehr

Senior Staff Writer

Another step is to be taken Monday by county commissioners toward a public private agreement that's to develop more jobs in Lewisburg's I-65 Commerce Park.

In anticipation of the county's application for a $105,780 state grant, public records reveal Meiwa Industry of Japan as the company planning to buy the city's building in the commerce park and employ 25 people in its first year and up to 100 in five years.

"It's a $5.8 million investment on the part of the Japanese company," County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett said Thursday.

The $105,780 state grant is to pay for infrastructure such as utility connections and other site preparations. The grant does not fund Meiwa Industry's purchase of the city-owned building, or changes to that structure.

Lewisburg's 63,000-square-foot industrial building has been empty since its construction in early 2009. Built on the speculation that a prospective employer would buy it, the so-called spec building has no floor so a buyer may finish the structure as needed.

"Meiwa Industry's core products are automotive interior components utilizing resin-processing technology," a company spokesman said. "We are engaged in the development, production and sales of components used in areas such as the trunk, floor and roof."

County commissioners meet at 6 p.m. Monday in the Marshall County Courthouse Annex on Lewisburg's public square where county leaders say the project is eligible for funding under Tennessee's Fast Track Infrastructure Development Program. Marshall County has obtained other such grants that fund site preparations such as utility connections and roadwork.

That part of the development is estimated at a cost of $129,000. Marshall County has agreed to split the local matching contribution of $23,220 with Lewisburg on behalf of the Meiwa Industry Co. LTD project, according to the resolution set for a vote Monday. If approved as anticipated, the city and the county will spend $11,610 each. That's their share of the matching grant. Technically, the commissioners will be voting to authorize Liggett to sign the grant application.

If Lewisburg alone applied for the Fast Track Infrastructure Development Grant, the local cost would be greater, Liggett explained. Cooperation between the city and the county lowers the local governments' costs.

Those costs were estimated high about a month ago, Liggett said. "The project figured less than what we calculated last month," he said.

Lewisburg's Industrial Development Board, led by Chairman Eddie Wiles, and served by the city's economic developer, Greg Lowe, have been working on this and other projects to create more jobs in this county. The latest unemployment report shows the rate at 11.4 percent, up from 10.6 percent in December. New figures were anticipated by the end of March. There were 1,410 people without employment in Marshall County during January, state records show.

Meiwa Industry makes parts of cars that are not usually noticed. They include Shiko sheet created by injecting air between two plastic sheets to have a corrugated shape; Zem-Light, a lightweight board of foamed resin between two plastic sheets that are rigid; and Meitone, a material developed as a plastic corrugated board with both lightness and durability.

"We are also now developing and manufacturing industrial materials and devices," the company's website states.

Liggett said, "I don't know exactly what they will be making, but it will be automotive related."

More information is anticipated when the IDB meets on April 1.