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Tsuda gets green light for project

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GREENFIELD — Tsuda Industries has final approval to begin a project that promises to bring more than 100 new jobs and millions of dollars worth of investment into the county starting next year.

The Hancock County Council at its Wednesday meeting voted to approve tax abatements on real and personal property for the Japanese auto-parts maker. It also discussed ways to keep the ball rolling on economic development.

The council gave Tsuda, which is planning its first U.S. location, a traditional 10-year tax abatement on more than $8 million in real estate investments and a 70 percent abatement on taxes for more than $50 million in personal property for 10 years.

The council preliminarily approved the project last month.

“It was a no-brainer, really,” said Bill Bolander, council president. “Even with the abatement, it still provides a lot more tax (revenue) than empty land. And the jobs are good.”

Tsuda plans to employ at least 111 workers in a 155,000 square-foot facility in the Mt. Comfort Air Park. The average salary for the jobs, primarily manufacturing positions, will be $49,920.

Tsuda makes drive, chassis, body, engine, brake, gear shift and accelerator parts for Toyota and Honda, among others. Production is expected to begin in 2014, with first-year sales expected to top $5 million. The company predicts sales will top $50 million by 2020, according to a presentation given at last month’s council meeting.

Landing Tsuda is the latest in a string of economic development successes for Hancock County and the Hancock Economic Development Council. Director Skip Kuker guided numerous other businesses through the tax abatement process earlier this year, netting approval on projects that could add nearly 700 new jobs to the county over the next five years.

“We’re doing very well,” Kuker said. “We’re seeing a great deal of requests for information and getting a great many looks.”

The county council is looking for ways to capitalize on all of that attention. On Wednesday, the council proposed chipping in an extra $2,000 to HEDC for marketing expenses. Currently the HEDC receives $40,000 a year each from the city and county.

“We have a lot of opportunity right now,” Bolander said. “He’s getting a lot of inquiries.”

Bolander said the council was unanimously behind the funding increase, but would like to see Greenfield match the contribution.

The city has already set its 2013 budget, though, said Mayor Dick Pasco, who told Kuker Thursday the city would not be able to chip in any additional money this year. The budget is tight, he said, due to a drop in funding for the Greenfield Fire Territory.

“The budget’s already done, but it probably doesn’t matter anyway. We wouldn’t have been able to find extra money,” Pasco said. “I believe in supporting development, but if you don’t have it, you don’t have it.”

Kuker said if the council is set on having its contribution matched, he would look for private donations to fill the need.

Right now, HEDC has a marketing budget of just $300.

“We have a small, small marketing budget,” Kuker said. “I want to increase the number of looks we get, especially from foreign developments, but it does cost.”

Kuker said an increase of $2,000 or $4,000 would make a huge difference to his office and could be used on trips, advertising and meetings with new and existing business owners looking to add jobs to the county.

“I would like to see some more marketing dollars,” Kuker said. “It really limits us. We want to make sure that people know we’re out there.”

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