Ray Cooney – Editor
The Commercial Review
FCC is making another major investment in Portland.
Company officials announced plans at Monday’s Portland City Council meeting for an 76,000-square foot expansion to their facility at the intersection of Franklin Street and Industrial Drive. They said they plan to add 57 jobs, and they are seeking a tax abatement on nearly $15.5 million in real and personal property.
Council members also acted on two other abatement requests, agreed to advertise the former fire station for sale and discussed the removal of trees in the downtown area.
Bill Bradley, executive director of Jay County Development Corporation, presented FCC’s request for a tax abatement on $6.3 million in real property and $9.2 million in personal property. He said the abatement will be for 10 years on the expansion and either five or 10 on the equipment.
The company, which is a major supplier of clutch components for Honda, plans to expand to the west of its current facility. The addition will include three 800-ton press lines and sanding lines, and the new jobs will bring total employees to more than 800.
“This would be to ensure that we can meet our future customer demands and continue making the product,” said production manager Mike Shephard.
The expansion, which follows a $16.4 million investment in new equipment in 2013, will include excavating and the creation of a retention pond and is scheduled to begin this spring. Shephard said the company will still have room for further expansion if needed.
Bradley also brought council a request from Moser Engineering for a five-year abatement on $30,000 in equipment. The new lathe will cut the time make buttons on the end of axels to one minute, 30 seconds, from the current five minutes.
Council members Bill Gibson, Judy Aker, Kent McClung, Don Gillespie, Kip Robinette and Mark Hedges, with Michael Brewster absent, referred both of those requests to the tax abatement advisory committee.
They also approved a five-year abatement for ATI Forged Products (Portland Forge) on the $1.285 million purchase of a new induction furnace. They had heard the request at their last meeting and it had since been recommended for approval by the advisory committee.
Council agreed to advertise the former fire station, 110 N. Commerce Street, for sale after a short discussion.
McClung asked if the station could be used by a city department, with Mayor Randy Geesaman responding that the street department stores some equipment there. But Gibson noted the deterioration of the historic building in recent years and recommended selling it to someone who could keep up with maintenance.
Gillespie raised the issue of trees that have been removed in the downtown area, saying the city needs a plan as to how to deal with the issue. He noted that either new trees should be planted or a more aesthetically-pleasing alternative be installed as opposed to just a concrete patch.
“We paid big money for an architect to come in and give us that streetscape only to find 15 years later it’s just gone,” added McClung of the Meridian Street widening project in the 1990s. “What’s the best approach to figure out what that downtown is going to look like, because we’ve been through this once before.”
Geesaman noted that trees have been removed only at the request of business owners and asked council members to get feedback from residents about the issue. He said he has a list of recommended trees for downtown areas from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources if council chooses to re-plant.
In other business, council members:
•Heard from Geesaman that a public meeting about the Indiana 26 East (Water Street) project has been rescheduled for 6 p.m. April 16 at East Jay Middle School. The meeting was originally scheduled for March 31, but was postponed because contractor Brooks Construction of Fort Wayne could not be in attendance. A pre-construction meeting is scheduled for Friday.
•Paid claims totaling $1,588,681.51.
•Learned spring clean-up week will be May 4 through 8.
•Approved a payment of $24,450 to the state revolving loan fund for the north side sewer separation project.
•Heard Geesaman say the city’s new website should be active in the next few weeks. City employees will also be getting new email addresses.
•Tabled a request for a four-way stop at the intersection of Walnut Street and Hawkins Avenue to allow council members a chance to evaluate traffic in the area.
•Approved closings of Alexander Street between Main Street and an alley to the north on the evenings of April 17, May 15, June 26, July 24, Aug. 21, Sept. 18 and Oct. 16 for Evangelical Methodist Church’s Friday Fun Night events and High Street between Meridian and Commerce streets from noon to 10 p.m. May 16 for a Portland Elks hog roast.