Local factory planning to expand, increase workforce

The Henry County Council may have broken the record for its shortest meeting Wednesday afternoon, adjourning just under the half-hour mark.

The council is preparing for the 2019 budget year and didn’t have too many accounting issues to handle this week.

The biggest project on their agenda was a request from Japanese-owned American Keeper Corporation to grow their plant in the New Castle-Henry County Industrial Park.

American Keeper Corp. opened in the industrial park in the early 2000s.

The company manufactures oil seals, CVJ boots, bellows, dust covers, and precision rubber parts.* American Keeper currently has 35 local employees and hopes to increase that number to 74 jobs by starting a new product line in a new 24,000-square-foot building.

New Castle-Henry County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) President and CEO Corey Murphy asked the county council Wednesday to consider a request from American Keeper to lower the property tax burden on the company through a 10-year tax abatement.

The EDC often uses tax abatements as incentives to make Henry County more attractive to outside companies looking to invest in the area.

Murphy said it makes sense to offer the same incentive to a company that is here now and wants to expand.

According to Murphy, the expansion project represents a $7.75 million investment in the New Castle facility.

“This company has been a good employer, a good resident in our industrial park,” Murphy said.

The proposed tax abatement will be on the assessed value of both personal and real estate property.

If the abatement is ultimately approved, American Keeper Corp. would pay no taxes on its new property the first year, then would pay 10 percent the second year, 20 percent the third year and so on for the duration of the abatement.

This is the same as other 10-year tax abatements that have been approved in Henry County, Murphy noted.

The Henry County Council agreed Wednesday afternoon to start the legal proceedings that would offset property taxes for the company over the next 10 years for their expansion.

Council member Richard Bouslog said the expansion project represents forward motion at the industrial park and for the local economy.

Mike Thalls, another council member, shared that some county residents have concerns about giving tax breaks to local companies because it will hurt the Henry County government’s budget.

Thalls suggested that the county will regain that tax money from the increase in local income and, in turn, more sales at local businesses.

County council president Nate LaMar pointed out that Japan is the single largest foreign country with direct investment in Indiana. LaMar expressed concerns about upcoming international tariffs and the impact they can have on the economy.

“I think it’s vital that we help a good corporate citizen like American Keeper here in our community to grow and add more jobs here in Henry County,” LaMar said before the vote.

The next step for the tax abatement request will be a public hearing at the next regular council meeting July 25.

LaMar also informed the council Wednesday that Henry County could participate in a regional housing study as part of the Eastern Indiana Regional Planning Commission.

The study could position Henry County to receive grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to help provide more mid-range housing options locally, LaMar said.

LaMar noted that the outcome of the study and receiving a grant will depend on having a high number of county residents respond to the surveys.

There was not action or recommendation made Wednesday on the topic of the housing study.

The Henry County Council will meet in a joint session at 6:30 p.m. July 10 in the county courthouse with the New Castle City Council, the Henry County Commissioners and New Castle Mayor Greg York to hear from the Henry County Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee (CJCC).

That meeting will allow local residents and elected leaders to see a presentation on the needs of the local criminal justice system and recommendations that the CJCC have come up with.

Henry County Council and CJCC member Clay Morgan wants members of the public to attend the July 10 meeting.

“Because this is such an obviously huge project – we’re going to be talking about our jail – we want good, solid public support,” Morgan said previously.

The next regular Henry County Council meeting is 3:30 p.m. July 25 in the county courthouse, 101 S. Main St., New Castle.

The council will also have their budget workshops at 8 a.m. Aug. 15-16, with a third meeting scheduled at 8 a.m. Aug. 20, if necessary. The budget hearing will be at 2:30 p.m. Aug. 22 before that day’s council meeting.

Source: The Courier Times, June 29, 2018

– Story by Travis Weik of The Courier-Times (June 29, 2018). Read more local stories at www.thecouriertimes.com

*This information represents an update to the original story.

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