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Expanding firms to get tax breaks

City Council awards initiatives touting 500 new jobs

– Fort Wayne City Council members approved $6 million in property tax breaks Tuesday night that are expected to create $44.5 million in new investments and create more than 500 jobs.

Sweetwater Sound plans a $20.3 million expansion of its headquarters on U.S. 30 that will add 110,000 square feet of warehouse, office space, classrooms and other public space. The expansion will create 358 full-time jobs and 45 part-time jobs.

Sweetwater officials said the expansion is an attempt to keep up with growth and that the company’s biggest concern is where to put its growing number of employees until construction is complete.

The tax breaks awarded Tuesday will phase in the property taxes on the expansion over 10 years, saving the company about $2.9 million over the decade.

Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Co. plans a $12.6 million expansion that will add 84 full-time jobs to the company’s headquarters at 6400 Brotherhood Way, near Coldwater and Interstate 69.

The company insures churches and religious groups; phasing in taxes on the expansion will save the firm about $1.9 million.

International Paper Co. plans to buy $6.4 million in new manufacturing equipment for an expansion, creating 104 full-time jobs. Its tax break will save it about $362,000 over the life of the abatement.

Fairfield Community Home plans to demolish the former Duemling Clinic at 530 Home Ave. and build multifamily housing for children aging out of foster care. The $5.2 million project will create three full-time jobs; the tax break will save the owners about $807,000.

The council also began the process of creating tax breaks for Press-Seal Gasket Corp. and Accelerated Tanks and Trailers. Accelerated Tanks and Trailers plans a $4.2 million investment that will create 277 full-time jobs.

Both of those proposals will be debated later.

Council members also approved the long-awaited sale of property on the southwest corner of Lima Road and I-69.

Justin Brugger of City Utilities said the city originally bought 20 acres at the site in 2006 for a stormwater retention basin to relieve flooding along Spy Run Creek in the industrial park there. The city paid $1 million for the land and an $1.6 million for engineering, construction and additional land, he said.

Tuesday, the council approved the sale of 8.3 acres to Dealership Holdings LLC for $1.25 million, for a Kelley Chevrolet dealership site. Costco, the members-only buy-in-bulk store, will be on land to the south.

Councilman Russ Jehl, R-2nd, questioned the decision, saying it appeared to be a deal set up to lose money.

“This is a very desirable piece of land, … and we’re selling at a loss,” Jehl said. “I’m confused why we would do that.”

Brugger said the retention basin needed to be built and that the sale of land not needed helps offset the cost.

Dealership owner Tom Kelley said the city’s efforts have led to nearly $40 million worth of new development and the creation of new jobs. He said the sale should close today and Costco will close on its land shortly after.

After several council members expressed their support, the measure passed unanimously.

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