Kraft could add 300 full-time positions by 2018

COSHOCTON – A possible expansion of Kraft’s local facility would bring 300 manufacturing positions to Coshocton — a turning point for the county that has lost almost half of its manufacturing jobs in the last 14 years.

Monday, the Ohio Tax Credit Authority approved a 60 percent, 10-year tax credit to Kraft Foods Group Inc. for the creation of 300 full-time equivalent jobs by 2018.

The jobs would be in manufacturing, said Kraft representative Joyce Hodel, and would pay an average of $14 an hour depending on the skill and training level of the employee.

Almost doubling the current workforce, the creation of these jobs would generate $8.7 million in additional payroll to the $14 million already annually generated in the county by Kraft. To retain the tax credit, Kraft would have to maintain operations at its Coshocton location for at least 13 years.

The expansion is estimated to cost $43 million in building, machinery and equipment costs, and could expand the Coshocton facility’s bacon manufacturing to a new, unspecified product line, according to Hodel.

The creation of the jobs isn’t a done deal yet.

The Coshocton facility still is competing with other locations for the project, Hodel said, but Coshocton Port Authority Executive Director Dorothy Skowrunski is “optimistic” about the facility’s candidacy because of the variety of economic incentives the area can offer. In addition to the tax credit, Skowrunkski said the port authority, in conjunction with other local governmental entities, is considering offering a real estate tax abatement, job creation grant and a variety of other economic cooperatives to Kraft.

“Economic development incentives like this are an important factor when Kraft makes these decisions,” Hodel said. “We are very appreciative that Ohio and Coshocton are working with us at looking at some incentives.”

The final expansion decision will be made after Kraft’s fall board meetings in September and October.

The influx of new manufacturing jobs has been rare in Coshocton within the past decade. Since 2000, Skowrunski said, the county has lost 42 percent of its manufacturing jobs, one cause of the 7.3 percent unemployment rate facing the area.

The downturn began with the closure of General Electric in 2004. The producer of refrigerator liners, counter tops, base materials for circuit boards and wall paneling among other items opened in 1946 and employed 1,300 people at its height. JII, an advertising products firm, went out that same year. Pretty Products, which made car mats, closed in 2005 and Ansell Emont, which made industrial gloves, closed in 2011.

Mayor Steve Mercer said those closures possibly has led to the 2008 economic recession hitting the county harder than some others. However, it also means Coshocton has the manufacturing history and workers with experience the possible Kraft expansion could benefit from.

“We’re thrilled our location in Coshocton is being considered for this type of investment,” Mercer said. “We obviously are just on the rebound from the recession of 2008. Our local economy needs the jobs more than other communities. We’ve had the manufacturing jobs and believe we still have that manufacturing mindset.”

Commissioner Gary Fischer said along with the economic boost of increasing the tax base, such an expansion would also be a big increase to a positive local attitude. He knows residents have been pessimistic about Coshocton’s future and many have said a home run of bringing in 300 or more jobs within one business just wasn’t possible in the current economic climate.

“We’ve been losing jobs for years in Coshocton County, something like this locally would be a positive and lift the morale of the community,” Fischer said. “It’s the big job (increase) people say isn’t possible. That 300 or 350 jobs that some say won’t happen might be on the doorstep.”

Skowrunksi, who has been working for months to help secure the tax credit, is excited about the possibilities 300 new jobs would bring to the Coshocton’s workers.

“For years, people have lost their jobs and have had to travel outside of Coshocton to work,” she said. “Now they can stay in their hometown. … It’s an investment in the community and that’s a good thing.”

From Coshocton Tribune | July 28, 2014

By Anna Rumer and Leonard Hayhurst, 740-450-6758, Twitter: @AnnaRumerZTR