City approves tax credit for Kraft

Local officials continue to do what they can to encourage an expansion estimated to create 300 new jobs in the next four years to come to the Coshocton Kraft Foods plant.

Kraft representatives have said they should make a decision by the end of September on the location for production of a new, unspecified product line. The Coshocton facility is a finalist for the expansion with another plant in Missouri. Various economic incentives are seen as a key to landing Coshocton the project.

At a special meeting Monday, Coshocton City Council approved Mayor Steve Mercer to enter into a job creation tax grant agreement with Kraft Foods. Kraft would be given a credit of half of the total on the city’s 1.5 percent income tax for 10 years.

The $43 million project is targeted to create 300 news jobs and a payroll of $8.7 million. This would include the local facility retaining the 372 jobs and $13 million payroll it has now. Previously, the Ohio Tax Credit Authority had approved a 60 percent, 10-year tax credit related to the expansion.

Coshocton County Commissioners and the city council also are considering a 10-year 75 percent enterprise zone exemption on new real estate taxes. Based on a similar project in 2006, the break would save Kraft about $600,000 over the 10 years. This would not affect current real estate taxes the company pays on its facility, which has a $6 million property evaluation.

The city council still needs to approve a resolution on the enterprise zone agreement before the county can move forward on their end. Mercer said legislation wasn’t completed in time for a vote Monday and another special meeting would be upcoming.

River View Schools and the Coshocton County Career Center, which fall within the sector the Kraft plant is in, have voiced support for the enterprise zone plan as it will not affect funding they receive.

The Coshocton Port Authority also is exploring what it can do to bring the project to the county. The port authority as a government entity can assist with building half of the expansion by making it sales tax free.

The city job creation tax credit was created in 2007 as part of other city economic incentive programs designed to entice new businesses. It allows eligible companies to claim credit against its city business or personal income tax for up to 15 years if at least 25 full-time jobs are created paying 150 percent or more of the federal minimum wage. The new jobs will pay $14 on average based on skill and training level of employees, Kraft said.

For a county that has lost 42 percent of its manufacturing jobs since 2000, this is seen as a major shot in the arm. For about a year and a half Mercer has been pushing a Made in the USA City campaign to have the municipality viewed as a domestic manufacturing hub.

The 31-year-old local plant is one of the largest employees in the county and would cement that with the expansion. It’s Kraft’s largest producer of Oscar Mayer bacon, the largest selling brand name bacon in the country, according to the American Meat Institute.

Coshocton’s connection to the trendy food of bacon has inspired Councilman Brad Fuller to launch a bacon festival new this year. The Appalachian Bacon Nation event will be Sept. 13 at the Coshocton Court Square. It will feature music, contests, craft and food vendors, a 5K race, kids play area and more.

Fuller said the festival has been mentioned to Kraft representatives and can also be viewed as another element in Coshocton’s favor for the expansion, because it shows community support for the corporation.

From Coschocton Tribune |  Leonard Hayhurst:

740-295-3417  |  Twitter: @llhayhurst

August 19, 2014