Council votes to continue 17 tax abatements

Truth file photo 

ELKHART — All companies under consideration during a pair of special meetings this week were found by Elkhart City Council to be in compliance with the terms of their tax abatement agreements.  

Despite a couple of council members voting against on some considerations, there appeared to be little doubt that all 17 resolutions would pass.

Some local companies were singled out for praise, as their statement of benefits reports showed they exceeded compliance.

Councilman David Henke, R-3, pointed to Lippert Components as an exemplary Elkhart business.

“It is just a ‘Wow!’” Henke said.

He was referring to the company’s report for its property at 3501 East C.R. 6, which houses thermoforming operations and headquarter support functions.

The report showed that, where Lippert was expected to spend $500,000 on real estate improvements, it has actually invested $1,442,261. Similarly, the expected number of new jobs at the facility was 106, while the actual number is 259.

The expected amount of wages to be paid for new jobs was just over $4 million, which was surpassed by more than $11 million, as total wages for new jobs at the facility are at $15,195,987.

“It just doesn’t get better than this,” Henke said.

Members of the City Council, including 4th District Democrat Dwight Fish, also applauded Lippert for the company’s involvement in the community.

“I’d like to just say thank you from the 4th District for the volunteer hours that you provide for the Environmental Center and the other parts of the city,” Fish said.

On Wednesday, Henke again had praise to give, this time for Kem Krest, which appears to have grown its number of employees at 3802 Gallatin Way from 94 to 337, when they were expected to grow by 36 new positions, according to a statement of benefits.

“We all know how well they have done in our community and volunteering, not only for Jazz Fest, but all of our community events,” Henke said. “The growth in that company is just phenomenal.”

On Tuesday, Brian Thomas, R-2, was the only council member to vote against finding a company in compliance with a tax abatement, voting no on the consideration for Tredit Tire & Wheel Co.’s compliance concerning property on 3305 Charlotte Ave.

The city council approved a five-year tax phase-in for the company in 2008, and though Tredit had yet to reach the goals set in all but one category – average yearly wage for jobs retained – the remaining members of the council found that the business had made a reasonable effort to be in compliance.

Thomas did not explain his vote.

One consideration on Wednesday led to more discussion, as the report from Global Link Distribution showed 45 percent compliance on average yearly wage for new jobs, at $14,070 rather than the expected $31,200.

Abby Wiles, assistant director for community, economic and redevelopment, told the city council that the reported number was likely due to the company’s report not taking into account that some hires were made late in the year.

This had been the case previously, Wiles said, though she had been unable to get in contact with Global Link Distribution this year to confirm it.

“I’m not willing to assume anything,” Fish said. “We can fill in the blanks, but I will not vote for anything we’re not clear on and that we don’t have a representative to support that.”

City Council President Brian Dickerson, R-at large, argued that there was no need to assume.

“I think that we can look at this CF-1 and reasonably determine that they’re in compliance with what they said they were going to do,” Dickerson said.

He made the argument that the company is doing as expected or better in several other categories.

“Overall, they should be found in compliance,” he said.

That appeared to win over Fish, who voted yes on the resolution.

Councilman Richard Shively, R-1, however, was still skeptical.

“There is some assumption here,” he said “I don’t believe it’s our position to assume that anything is correct if any part of it is incorrect.”

He said he would feel more comfortable voting for the resolution to find Global Link Distribution in compliance if a representative from the business would come and explain at a later date.

Global Link Distribution was found in compliance in a 6-1 vote, with Shively voting against.

Follow Rasmus Jorgensen on his Twitter @ReadRasmus.

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