At a groundbreaking ceremony Nov. 5, the president of Bradley Services Inc. thanked Morton village officials and state officials for fighting to keep the company in Morton after a fire destroyed the company’s production plant in March.
The groundbreaking was to mark the beginning of work on a 50,000-square-foot expansion of BSI’s 100,000-square-foot warehouse on Detroit Avenue, according to BSI President Chris Ober.
The expansion will allow the company — which manufactures “exhaust products and tubing,” according to Businessweek — to house all of its operations in one place, whereas the production currently occurs in Mapleton, due to the March fire, and the shipping occurs at a third building.
“We looked several months, looking at different options, different cities, different states,” Ober said. “But again Morton and the state of Illinois ended up fighting the hardest, honestly. They really did, kind of proving that this was the reason we’d been here for 30 years and we want to be here for another 30; a really easy decision after going through the entire process. It was the right decision to bring this work back home.”
At the behest of the village’s Economic Development Council, the taxing bodies in the village all agreed to a real estate tax abatement for the company if it built its new facility in Morton after it established a new plant in Mapleton following the fire.
The Morton EDC also contacted the state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, which provided tax credits to BSI for 10 years as part of the EDGE Tax Credit program, according to an EDC statement.
Morton Village Board President Norm Durflinger said “the state was the biggest major factor” because the tax credits were larger than the real estate tax abatement the village could provide.
“Potentially losing 200 employees, that’s a major loss,” Durflinger said. “The Village Board and the Economic Development Council felt we had to do everything we could to find (BSI) a place in Morton and so we worked extremely hard to do that and the EDC with Kim Uhlig made the contacts with the state of Illinois and we were able to bring some incentives that made it worthwhile to stay in Illinois because I think they were looking elsewhere.”
The project is expected to generate more than $106,000 in new tax revenue for the village, according to the EDC statement.
The BSI expansion is just another among several recent signs that Tazewell County might have weathered the worst of the recession and that the local economy is trending upward.
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In the previous month, the Hopedale Medical Complex held a groundbreaking ceremony for an expansion of its own that is expected to be just the first step in a massive growth plan for the hospital, and Excel Foundry held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate the completion of one phase of the road improvement project necessary to accommodate the company’s expansion. The company located just south of Pekin also showed off the large new facility that will increase the company’s production and create about 100 new jobs.
Tazewell County Administrator Michael Freilinger has also said the county has taken in about $500,000 more in sales tax revenue this year than it had at this point in 2011, which is a sign that people are spending money in the county.
According to the Illinois Department of Employment Security website, Tazewell County had an unemployment rate of 7.1 percent in September, the most recent month for which IDES provided data. That number was lower than the state rate, which was 8.8 percent, while the national rate was listed at 7.8 percent.
The monthly average unemployment rate for the county was 8.3 percent in 2011, according to the IDES site.