Jacksonville council to consider helping plant expansion at tonight's meeting
by Laura Gaddy
Oct 14, 2013 | 3596 views |  0 comments | 75 75 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Jacksonville City Council could decide Monday to give a local company special incentives to expand, but officials may keep quiet about the deal even after council members cast their vote.

The $62,500 in incentives would go to Shelco Foundries, an auto- and machinery-parts manufacturer on West Francis Street.

One incentive would give Mayor Johnny Smith the authority to execute an economic development agreement with Gnutti Carlo, the Italian-based parent company to Shelco. The other incentive would give the mayor the approval to ratify a tax abatement with the company.

Officials had little to say about the incentives Friday. Smith and Council President Mark Jones, who said he knew little about the incentives, didn’t discuss anything about the deal beyond what appears on the council’s agenda.

Paul Buchanan, the managing director of Gnutti Carlo USA and Gnutti Carlo Canada, last week also declined to provide much detail on the expansion. He said the tax abatement would help the company to expand systems within the foundry.

Gnutti bought the Jacksonville plant at the beginning of the year, Buchanan said. Its 53 employees manufacture mainly diesel engine components and dampening devices for the rail industry, he said.

Buchanan said there were competitive issues with the potential expansion that prevented him and the city from saying much more. He said he hoped the company could announce its plans early in 2014.

“We are normally more forthcoming than this,” he said. “The wrong words in the wrong places could really upset our plans.”

Shelco Foundries has had a presence in Jacksonville for more than than two decades. The company’s website lists General Motors, the Ford Motor Company and Caterpillar as customers.

In the early 1990s Shelco faced a potential layoff when GM planned to close 21 plants in the United States and Canada, according to an article published by The Star in 1991. At that time about 8 percent of Shelco’s business was tied to the company.

In 1993 the company benefited from state grants that spread $750,000 to five local governments in northeastern Alabama, according news accounts at the time. Jacksonville received $100,000 of the money, which was passed on to industries.

At that time the city announced that it would use that money to replace a bridge on West Francis Street to serve Shelco. The story notes that, at that time, the company was planning to grow by 26 employees over the next year.

Don Hopper, executive director of the Calhoun County Economic Development Council said that, in general, economic incentive packages are developed through partnerships among city, county and state governments. The terms of such deals, developed to attract a specific company, vary depending upon the impact their expansion will have on the communities they’re moving to or expanding in.

The developers consider the number of jobs the change could bring and the how much money it will generate locally when developing incentive packages, he said. The packages often include tax breaks, credit programs and industrial training.

The council will meet for its regularly scheduled meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall.

Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LGaddy_Star.

Managing Editor Ben Cunningham contributed reporting.

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