A maker of plastic containers on Tuesday got the initial OK for a tax break that will help it bring at least 110 jobs to a downtown Chattanooga neighborhood.
The City Council voted 7-0 on first reading in favor of a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, agreement for M&M Industries, which wants to add a warehouse at its Lookout Valley plant and open up another factory plant in an existing building on East 14th Street in Highland Park.
The company will invest nearly $3 million for renovation and about $24 million for machinery and equipment at the former Millennium Packaging facility on 14th Street, according to the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce. Altogether, it plans to spend $42.7 million on expansions.
M&M CEO Glenn Morris and Darrell Davis, vice president and chief operating officer, have made the case to local officials that even with the seven-year PILOT, the company would pay more than twice the property taxes that the 14th Street building now generates. The company is seeking a similar break from Hamilton County government.
It also has said the plant will provide job opportunities for relatively unskilled workers in an area where it is desperately needed.
A pair of neighborhood residents contested that assertion at Tuesday's City Council meeting. Local veterinarian Dr. John Lindsay and resident Emerson Burch said they'd talked to a lot of neighbors who hadn't heard anything about the plant, weren't interested in the jobs and opposed the tax break.
But Councilman Anthony Byrd, who represents the area, said that wasn't what his constituents were telling him. He said three young men had called him asking about jobs, and he motioned to a woman in the audience who he said was homeless, living in her car and desperate to find work.
Byrd had several questions for Darrell Davis and Steve Hiatt, with the Chattanooga Chamber, about environmental conditions, opportunities for advancement and how to minimize noise from trains delivering materials to the plant in a residential neighborhood.
But overall, he said, he campaigned on bringing jobs and improving the lives of his constituents, and the M&M plant can help with that.
"I think that's what I'm here to do, to help the masses, not the classes," Byrd said.
CORRECTION: This story was updated Nov. 22 at 10:35 a.m. to say Darrell Davis is vice president and chief operating officer of M&M. A previous version of the story identified Darrell Davis as the son of M&M CEO Glenn Morris.