By JOHN KLINE
THE GOSHEN NEWS
Nearly 300 new jobs could be on their way to the Middlebury and Elkhart areas following tentative approval of two tax phase-in proposals by the Elkhart County Council Saturday.
A tax phase-in is a partial or temporary exemption of a company from having to pay property taxes, the goal being stimulating economic development.
Council members approved a declaratory resolution supporting a seven-year tax phase-in for Fortress Technologies LLC, an RV parts manufacturer, which plans to convert the old Pilgrim plant along U.S. 20 in Middlebury into a full-frame RV chassis manufacturing plant.
Through the new project, the company has indicated plans to invest more than $6.5 million in new machinery and equipment at the plant. The project would also reportedly involve the hiring of approximately 266 new employees over the course of the next four years for an annual payroll of nearly $10.5 million.
Final action on the Fortress Technologies phase-in agreement has also been set for the council’s Dec. 8 meeting.
The council also approved a declaratory resolution supporting a seven-year tax phase-in agreement with the company Vista Manufacturing, an Elkhart-based manufacturer of LED, incandescent and rope lighting for use in the automotive, RV, marine and various other industries.
“Vista was actually incorporated here in Indiana in 1981,” said Vista President Todd Tieszen. “We do strip lighting, a lot of LED lighting and panels you see in movie theaters, we put them in vans, RVs, aircraft. We also put them in cruise lines, boats, those types of things — we’re in 14 different markets.”
According to County Attorney Craig Buche, Vista Manufacturing is looking at expansion plans which promise approximately $2.4 million in real estate investment at a facility in the Elkhart East Business Park.
Through the expansion, the company has indicated plans to hire approximately 15 new full-time positions for an expected annual increase in payroll of $538,000.
In order to qualify for the tax phase-in agreement, Vista Manufacturing has agreed that it will stay in operation at its Elkhart location for no less than 11 years. Should the company fail to meet its obligations under the phase-in agreement, Vista would be forced to repay the county a pro-rated portion of the total real estate and personal property taxes saved as a result of the tax phase-in agreement.
Final action on the proposed tax phase-in is set for Dec. 8, at which time the County Council will determine whether or not the qualifications for a tax phase-in can be reasonably met by the company.