Having purchased a Tazewell-based agricultural product manufacturer, Monsanto is looking to expand the plant’s operations and the Tazewell County Board approved the framework of an incentive proposal Wednesday to try to make sure that expansion stays in the county.
Monsanto has recently purchased Precision Planting, which is located in unincorporated Tazewell County a few miles outside of Tremont, and which manufactures products to help farmers plant seeds at the proper depths and with the proper spacing, among other things. Now the agricultural giant wants to expand the Precision Planting operations and is considering locations in a few states to serve as the future home for this expanded manufacturing plant and for a support facility.
“We’re interested in providing some incentive to help them make a decision to invest here in Tazewell County,” said County Administrator Mike Freilinger before Wednesday’s meeting.
According to Freilinger, the county was invited to submit a proposal for the Monsanto board to consider when it meets in March. The agricultural giant has expressed an interest in spending about $20 million to expand the manufacturing plant in unincorporated Tazewell near Tremont and to build a new “support facility” in Morton, according to the board resolution. In exchange, the county would provide a 100 percent tax abatement on the increased value of the Tremont location and a 95 percent abatement on the Morton facility for five years.
It seems likely the Morton support facility would be the warehouse that Tremont has been competing against Morton to land. The village of Tremont has been working with a developer to create a business development on the village’s east side and the goal was to secure Monsanto’s proposed warehouse as an anchor.
Tremont Village Board President Todd Bong said he has not heard from Monsanto or the developer about any decision by the corporation and he has expressed confidence in the package the village has offered, though he would not release any details about the offer.
“It will be what it will be, and if it doesn’t land here in Tremont there are other provisions that the developer is looking at,” Bong said. “I don’t think Morton or the county is aware of what we’ve discussed with Monsanto, and I’m not going to talk about it with anybody until I’ve heard from Monsanto or the developer.”
Freilinger also wanted to make it clear that Monsanto has made no decisions and that everything is in a very preliminary phase as of now.
According to Freilinger, the details of any deal between the county and the corporation would have to be worked out once Monsanto picked a site. What he would be looking for as a negotiator, though, would be some commitment from the company concerning the size of the investment in new facilities, the number of jobs the new operation will create, how much those positions will pay and how long those jobs will stay in the county.
Freilinger said that the “very preliminary” numbers that have been discussed are a five-year property tax abatement from the county, as long as Monsanto spends about $20 million on the project and creates a minimum of 19 jobs within the next two years that all pay well over the average wage in the county. Monsanto would also have to maintain those jobs for a minimum of 10 years.
Monsanto representatives have spoken of creating as many as 33 new jobs, Freilinger said.
Board Member Greg Sinn said the incentive proposal is a good idea to attract “dollars here” and he believes that with Monsanto there will be more money to come should the company set up shop in the area.
“They have recently made large purchases of property,” said board member John Ackerman. “I believe they are making a long-term commitment to be here in the Morton area.”
Board member Russ Crawford applauded the proposal as a proactive measure by the county to pursue economic development, which is something that is often talked about but for which action is not often enough taken.
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