Tax break helps Dunlap firm add jobs

photo Dunlap Mayor Dwain Land

A locally owned steel fabricating plant in Dunlap, Tenn., is poised to move to a new building and potentially double its workforce, city leaders said.

The city's industrial development board is set to meet Dec. 30 to approve a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement for Benton Steel Fabricating. The company will get a 10-year break on city and Sequatchie County property taxes in its new 40,000-square-foot facility.

Office manager Carol Swafford said Thursday the company specializes in components for industrial equipment and cabinets and racks for electrical backup power products. She said it's too early to say exactly how many workers Benton Steel might hire. The company's biggest customer is changing models, and Benton is bidding on the job, she said.

"They have assured us we'll have plenty of work," Swafford said. She's guessing that the workforce might expand from its present 25 to nearly 40 or even 50 at the plant, where pay averages $15 to $16 an hour.

"We are so excited that everything has come together so easily," she said. "We love where we are, we love this area of the country, we're all local people and we're happy to be able to do this."

Jan Johnson, president of the industrial development board, said the board sold revenue bonds to finance the new building, which it will lease to Benton Steel Fabricating for 10 years. Benton Steel will repay the bonds and pay property taxes on a sliding scale over that time. At the end of 10 years, the company will get the deed to the building and go fully on the property tax rolls.

Johnson and County Executive Keith Cartwright, among others, extolled Benton Steel Fabricating and its local owner, Mitchell Carr.

"He's what everyone's striving to do," Cartwright said. "We're proud of him."

Johnson said the community is proud that a Sequatchie County scion is growing jobs in his hometown.

"They've been in our community for several years. ... Now they've made some new customers and have the chance to really expand," Johnson said. "We had a chance, and we jumped at it, to help one of our local guys."

Dunlap Mayor Dwain Land said the expansion from a 15,000-square-foot building is a $1.25 million investment.

"Any jobs is good news, but when it amounts to [as many as] 50 like this, it's really good news," Land said.

The impact in Sequatchie County, with around 14,500 residents, is about the same as 5,000 jobs in Hamilton County, he said.

This expansion comes a year after Mann+Hummel, a German firm, set up in the former Seymour Tubing plant to manufacture aftermarket intake manifolds and filters for the auto industry. The $15 million investment was expected to create as many as 150 jobs.

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