Commissioners approve EZ agreements

LISBON — Continuation of a tax abatement program that resulted in the creation of 93 local jobs was approved Wednesday by Columbiana County commissioners.

Separate enterprise zone (EZ) agreements for Pennex Aluminum in Leetonia and Reichard Industries in Columbiana were first approved in 2014 as part of major expansions by both. EZ agreements require approval by commissioners, the communities and local tax incentive review committee. The agreements must be reviewed annually to determine if the companies have lived up to the original terms for the EZ designation to be continued.

Commissioner Chairman Tim Weigle pointed out the agreement with Reichard required the tax breaks be used to create at least 16 new jobs and $480,000 in payroll. He noted Reichard has created 11 new jobs but they are having trouble finding qualified workers. The additional payroll is $465,000, which means the workers they have hired are earning more than expected.

Pennex promised to create 65 new jobs and has exceeded that by 17, Weigle noted. The expansion was to increase payroll by $2.3 million but the actual figure is $3.8 million.

“They knocked that out of the park,” Weigle said of Pennex. “They’ve done a great job.”

County Development Director Tad Herold said EZ agreements allow for 10-year tax breaks on value of new construction and equipment. In exchange, companies must pledge to create a certain number of jobs within a specific time frame, among other things. Annual reports must be submitted to the state and county development department to ensure compliance.

Reichard undertook a $2 million, 17,850-square-foot expansion, and Pennex a $33 million, 175,000-foot expansion. Pennex announced on Monday it is planning another major expansion that will add another 45 jobs. The company currently employs 180 people.

In other news at yesterday’s meeting, Commissioner Mike Halleck reported they will receive an additional $324,000 in state funding this year because state sales tax collections exceeded a certain level. Halleck, who is the board’s representative to the County Commissioners Association of Ohio, said the organization was instrumental in reaching an agreement with the Kasich administration to provide counties with additional funding should sales tax collections exceed projections.

Commissioners are expected to lose $2.1 million a year because they are no longer allowed to charge the county sales tax against Medicaid-managed-care providers. To prepare for this anticipated loss, commissioners have set aside about $10 million from the county’s annual carryover balances over the past several years.

Halleck also took the opportunity to publicly thank Don Booth Carpeting of North Jackson for donating new flooring for the county jail.