Loudon approves tax deals for businesses

LOUDON The Loudon County Commission and the Loudon City Council voted to grant payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, incentives to two projects in a special called meeting Monday, including a multimillion-dollar plan promising to bring hundreds of jobs to a vacant spot in a county industrial park.
The 10-year plan for delivery van maker Morgan Olson will invest about $45 million to occupy the vacated John Deere building in the Matlock Industrial Park.
County Economic Development Agency executive Pat Phillips told the council and commission that Morgan Olson would probably hire 400 workers quickly, with the possibility of reaching a total of 500 or more jobs in two to three years. The increase in hundreds of good-paying jobs averaging about $20 per hour will reduce unemployment and raise average wages in the county, Phillips said.
Morgan Olson is probably the second largest project in the region in the past few years, Phillips said. The company now lists job openings in Tennessee, including buyers, planners, schedulers, engineering managers and supervisory positions.
The company will receive a 10-year tax break with an annual lease payment of $122,832. The PILOT would begin in January and continue through December 2025.
"What will this cost us?" Commissioner Henry Cullen asked.
Phillips said the cost to the county in lost taxes could be about $71,000 and the cost to the city about $45,000. The offset would be the creation of hundreds of jobs and increased sales tax revenue.
County Mayor Buddy Bradshaw said he supports the deal because of the immediate benefits and his faith that Morgan Olson is committed to the project.
"I think this has room to grow," he said.
Loudon Mayor Joey Greenway said he expected to see more cars on the road and more revenue from gas stations in the town.
Commissioner Van Shaver said he was concerned the county was acting in haste. He said he believes the company would have come to the county regardless of the tax incentives. "We're just giving it away. I believe a better deal could have been had," he said. The deal is better for the city, which collects sales tax, than for the county, which has the burden of funding the school system, he said.
The two bodies also voted to grant a 5-year PILOT for Van Hoose Co., a maker of concrete fixtures, in exchange for a $12 million new investment that would create 50 or more jobs.
Shaver said the Van Hoose Co. deal was an example of setting the bar too low. More, smaller companies are going to be asking for tax deals in the future, he said.