Amarr Garage Doors wants to start cashing in on a 10-year tax break approved six years ago.
Lawrence city commissioners on Tuesday will consider activating a tax abatement that had been approved by commissioners in 2003, but has yet to be implemented.
The abatement would save Amarr an estimated $120,400 a year in property taxes on property and equipment associated with an expansion at the company’s plant in the East Hills Business Park.
Amarr started the expansion project in 2004, then delayed it while the company focused on adding a call center for customer support. Amarr finished its manufacturing expansion in late 2007.
The push to start the latent abatement comes as Amarr grapples with a continued downturn in residential construction, its main business market. Late last year the company had about 600 employees in town before announcing it would lay off 100 workers, and Amarr has had other employment adjustments since then.
“At this point we just have to sustain our business and make sure that when this thing turns around we’re stepping out with our best foot forward,” said Delbert Phlipot, Amarr’s vice president for manufacturing. “Every little bit helps, particularly during these tough economic times that we’re in.”
The center at 3800 Greenway Circle now has about 490 employees, of whom about 40 work in jobs created by the expansion. In 2003, Amarr had said that the expansion would create 80 jobs.
Roger Zalneraitis, the city’s economic development coordinator/planner, recommends that commissioners approve Amarr’s tax break, despite the employment shortfall. Among his reasons:
• Amarr actually spent $19.1 million on the expansion and equipment, or $2 million more than had been outlined in the original agreement. The company also spent an additional $1.1 million since 2006 for equipment, although that additional equipment is not subject to taxation.
• Because the abatement has not yet taken effect — Amarr would like it to start Jan. 1 — the company’s employment levels, for compliance purposes, shouldn’t be measured until December 2010, Zalneraitis said. The city then “would assess their compliance with their performance agreement and make any adjustments to the abatement at that time,” he said, in a memo forwarded to commissioners.
Under standards established in the city’s economic development policy, Zalneraitis said, Amarr would be considered as achieving 95 percent compliance with its performance agreement — a percentage that would be high enough to justify granting the entire tax abatement as originally outlined.
Abatements typically take effect once a qualifying project is completed, City Manager David Corliss said.
“It’s just taken them a little bit longer, but they’re a great employer in the community and we’re glad they’re here,” Corliss said. “We understand their economic challenges and we’re hopeful that they will continue to grow and prosper.”
The Lawrence plant produces about 90 percent of all garage doors for Amarr, which is based in Winston-Salem, N.C.
The commission meeting is set for 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.