Tax relief for 2 South Point firms gets county’s OK

Published 9:51 am Friday, January 7, 2011

Business got a boost as the Lawrence County Commissioners got back to business in the New Year.

On an extensive Thursday agenda tax abatements were among the first order of business for the commissioners as they gave the nod to two South Point-based companies — McGinnis Inc. and Mercier’s Inc. Both received a 50 percent reduction in their property tax over a 10-year period.

The McGinnis abatement was for its new multi-million-dollar barge sandblasting and painting facility on the Ohio River at Sheridan that opened about a year ago.

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Mercier’s Inc., a Maryland-based right of way and vegetation management firm, created a central division for the firm when it broke ground at The Point in the summer of 2008.

The abatements are contingent upon the companies creating and maintaining a total of 90 additional jobs for the county — 50 jobs at McGinnis and 40 jobs at Mercier’s.

“We have never given a 100 percent abatement to make sure the schools are taken care of,” Ralph Kline, assistant executive director of the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization, told the commissioners at their regularly scheduled meeting. “And we go out to the businesses to make sure they are in compliance.”

Should a company getting an abatement have to lay off workers, reducing the minimum-hiring requirement agreed upon, continuing the tax relief could be reconsidered by the Enterprise Zone advisory committee, Kline said.

The commissioners also approved applying for a competitive economic development Community Development Block Grant for Chatham Steel. In late summer of 2008 the Savannah, Ga. corporation announced it had bought approximately 12 acres near Hanging Rock for its next service center location.

Chatham is a subsidiary of Reliance Steel and Aluminum Co. and distributes steel, carbon and stainless steel projects to manufacturing and construction firms.

However, the national economic downturn halted those plans. Now the company wants to open a facility at The Point in a spec building the Lawrence Economic Development Corp. has put up at the industrial park.

“With the downturn they want to move forward at a slower pace,” Kline said. “They are scaling back their expansion plan, wanting to get in and start things immediately. The Point, where they have a spec building, was willing to work with them on a shorter term lease.”

The CDBG fund of $366,500 would go toward making improvements at the spec building including an access road. It was Kline’s understanding that Chatham had plans to develop the Hanging Rock site later as the economy gained momentum.

“We are working with Chatham and feel very positive about how things are going,” Dr. Bill Dingus, executive director of the LEDC, said. “However there are still a great many things to be done. If they do come, a CDBG would be able to develop some of the infrastructure, gas lines extension, road, sewer and water. They are very interested in getting into operation much quicker than they have time to build a building. My understanding is they are working pretty aggressively to get into operation.”

Bert Tenenbaum, Chatham president, said the company would like to be in place in South Point by spring and initially would hire up to 30.

“This facility that Dr. Dingus is putting up gave us an opportunity to get into the market faster than if we built our project,” he said.

It is the company’s intention to outgrow the South Point location and move into a facility at the original Hanging Rock location, Tenenbaum said.