Even before the deal has been signed, sealed and delivered, area residents are champing at the bit to apply at a new East Hills manufacturing plant recently proposed by Plastikon Industries.
“We have had tremendous support, and interest, from the community already,” said Beth Johnson, vice president of economic development for the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce. “We’re already getting a number of phone calls about applications.”
City commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting did nothing to dampen the excitement. Commissioners did not officially approve the project, but rather sent it as city code requires to the Public Incentives Review Commission for a recommendation.
But commissioners left little doubt about where they stood.
“I think this is a home run,” said Commissioner Lance Johnson. “I can’t say yes fast enough.”
Company officials also are looking forward. Johnson said after being told of the employment inquiries, the company has set up a dedicated e-mail address and phone line for people interested in learning about the application process for the Lawrence project.
The e-mail address is email@example.com. The phone number is 510-393-7290.
‘Sound like great jobs’
The company announced last week that it had chosen Lawrence over Chicago and South Carolina as the site for a facility that will manufacture plastic vials to be used in health labs across the world.
The project — slated to go in the former Serologicals building in the East Hills Business Park — would employ 50 people initially and a total of 126 within three years. The average salary for production workers is expected to be about $45,000 per year. When plant management and engineering positions are added, the average salary grows to $58,531 per year.
“These sound like great jobs, and what is very exciting is that I believe this is the kind of company we’re going to have the opportunity to work with on a regular basis,” said Mayor Mike Amyx.
Kansas City economic development leaders also were at the meeting Tuesday to praise the deal. Bob Marcusse, president of the Kansas City Area Development Council, said Lawrence had become easier to market to biotech companies as the community has moved forward on several projects — including a new bioscience incubator, acquisition of the Farmland Industries property and new research buildings at Kansas University.
Marcusse also said having an available health-related building — it previously was constructed to make a pharmaceutical additive — was important.
“That was a tremendous advantage, and allowed Lawrence to move quickly, which was needed with this project,” Marcusse said.
The project now will go to the city’s Public Incentives Review Commission on Nov. 3 for a recommendation on an incentives package for the project.
As previously reported, the city and county are being asked to provide about $60,000 worth of work-force training assistance to the company over the next five years. Under the proposed deal, the city and county each would provide $250 of training assistance per worker, but would be allowed to stretch the payments out during a five-year period.
The city also is being asked to issue $7 million worth of industrial revenue bonds for the project. The bonds allow the company to receive lower financing rates, but do not obligate the city to financially back the project. The company will not ask for a property tax abatement as part of the project.
Larger incentives are being offered at the state level. The Kansas Department of Commerce will provide about $1 million in tax incentives and work-force training. The Kansas Bioscience Authority also has signed a letter of intent to work with the company on an incentives package that will be brought before the authority’s full board.
City Manager David Corliss said the company has asked the city to issue the Industrial Revenue Bonds by the end of the year. The company hopes to have the plant operational in the second quarter of 2011.