Cities compete for jobs, businesses

WARREN – Communities are finding it tough to attract businesses even if they have local tax rebates, abatements, state grants and other incentives in place.

Warren is under consideration for a new Cattron-Theimeg Inc. plant, estimated to bring at least 55 new jobs and an unidentified number of existing jobs. Hermitage, Pa., also is being considered as home to the plant.

Cattron-Theimeg Inc. is a unit of Laird Technologies, a London-based company, which is moving its Sharpsville, Pa., plant to a new location because it has outgrown its current offices.

Sharpsville Borough manager Ken Robertson last week said Cattron was founded by Jim Cattron and has been in the community for 75 years. With 134 jobs, the family-owned company has been one of the community’s largest employers.

Sharpsville is a bedroom community of 4,500 residents. It previously provided Cattron a 10-year designation grant.

“I guess that is how we kept the company this long,” Robertson said. “We’ve told the company’s officials we would match any offer they are being given by other communities.”

In September, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett’s office announced that Laird Technologies is eligible to receive a $2.5 million Economic Growth Initiative grant for a $16.3 million construction project in the Hermitage Technology and Innovation Center in Mercer County.

Hermitage Assistant City Manager Gary M. Gull said last week that he would not comment on its effort to get Laird Technologies to move into its community.

“It is our policy not to comment on projects until a point in time when the company has made an official decision,” Gull said.

Warren city officials would not comment directly on efforts to bring Laird into the city, but in a Jan. 6 letter sent to the JobsOhio Network, Mayor Doug Franklin wrote that gaining Laird Technologies could represent a turning point for a city that lost hundreds of jobs with the closing of the GE Lamp Plant, RG Steel and others by creating jobs and strengthening the city’s tax base.

The city has offered the gift of six acres of land; waiver of the tap-in fees for city utilities; a 10-year, 63-percent rebate on the net income tax withholding of the new employees; and an additional 63-percent tax credit on its net profit tax liability due to Warren. In addition, a property tax abatement of up to 75 percent on new evaluation for new abatement at the site has been offered.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s office last week announced the state would provide a 55 percent job creation tax credit to the company if it moves to Warren.

Although not talking about this specific project, Franklin said it is a very competitive environment to attract businesses.

“Companies and businesses sometimes will pit communities against each other without letting them know,” Franklin said. “It makes us constantly re-evaluate and tweak our incentive packages so we will stay ahead of the curve.”

There not only is a competition for incentive packages and land, there is competition for intellectual property.

“With the number of colleges and trade schools in this area, I don’t think that will be a problem,” Franklin said.

As incentives, the city can offer discounted water and sewer rates, tap-in and permit fees.

“Tax incentives are a big thing,” Franklin said. “We are very fortunate to have good relationships with the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber, JobsOhio and the Mahoning Valley Economic Development Corp, which provide us with technical support and outreach.”

Former Lordstown Mayor Michael Chaffee said his village was in competition with other area communities for more than a year before Anderson Dubose decided to locate in the Ohio Commerce Center there.

The owners of Anderson DuBose first agreed in 2009 to purchase and move into a site in North Jackson, just south of Lordstown, before homeowners and activists in that community successfully argued that the land’s zoning should not be changed.

By 2011, after looking at several sites, Anderson DuBose officials decided to build a factory in Lordstown.

Chaffee said township officials, working with the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber, the then-Ohio Department of Development and the owners of the Ohio Commerce Center, worked hard to convince the company that the village was a perfect place to do a $28 million construction project that also would provide 150 permanent jobs.

Sarah Boyarko, vice president of regional development at the Regional Chamber, said neither she nor company officials would consider Laird Technologies’ search for its new location as a competition between Warren and Hermitage.

“It is what is the best business decision for the company,” Boyarko said. “Bordering states generally know what kinds of incentives the other have. It is how well each community can meet the company’s needs.”

Boyarko said the regional chamber works closely with chambers in western Pennsylvania.

“There are instances, such as when Noise Solutions announced they were locating in Sharon, Pa., that both areas benefit because of the proximity of jobs,” Boyarko said. “When it is a neighboring community, we don’t view it as competition, because it can help the region.”

Boyarko said the chamber has quite a few members located in Pennsylvania

“We try to work with economic development and work force issues together,” she said.

Franklin said the city is upgrading its website so it will have a link that will market the city 24 hours, seven days a week.

“The link is strictly for economic development and job creations,” he said.