October 11, 2017 11:10:32 AM
Alex Holloway - [email protected]
West Point and Clay County officials passed a series of matching tax exemptions at a joint city-county meeting on Tuesday with the hopes of luring a company that could bring 300 jobs and a $50 million capital investment to West Point.
Golden Triangle Development CEO Joe Max Higgins said a company, codenamed "Project Polar," is looking at the Americold building on Church Hill Road. Higgins said the 200,000 square-foot facility used to be a freezer when Sara Lee operated in West Point, and the company that's eyeing the location is looking at it to serve as a poultry processing facility.
"There's no slaughter involved," Higgins said. "Refrigerated poultry meat comes in, it's further processed, bagged and distributed to the end user. We wouldn't have liked that location for live slaughter because it's right in the middle of what has become this retail resurgence area in West Point. So that was key to us, that it wouldn't be bringing in live chickens."
Higgins said the company has an option on the building and is going through due diligence before deciding on whether to locate in West Point. He said the company first wanted commitments from the city and county.
Should the company decide to locate in West Point, Higgins said, it will bring 300 jobs that pay $15 to $17 an hour, in addition to benefits. The $50 million investment will come through the purchase of the building, upgrades to the building and installation of manufacturing lines.
Both West Point and Clay County approved 10-year ad valorem tax exemptions for upgrades to the facility, inventory that's shipped in-state and out-of-state, Higgins said. West Point also approved a change to the city's water use ordinance that will allow the company reduced water and sewage rates, due to the high volume of water the operation is expected to use.
However, Higgins said that comes with a "take or pay" clause, meaning the company has to pay for the water, whether it uses that amount or not.
Mayor Robbie Robinson said he's hopeful the company will choose West Point, which he said would be a "tremendous" boost to the city's economy.
"We're excited about it," Robinson said. "It's 300 jobs over a four-year period. We're excited about the investment in our community and the jobs it could bring."
Higgins said officials now have to wait for the company to finish its due diligence, a process that will likely take a few weeks.
"What this means is, if it's a tennis match, the ball is in the company's court," Higgins said. "Everything they've asked us to do, we've done.
"I have high hopes that this will be a done deal," he added. "But it's never a done deal until the company decides it's a done deal."