sports journalist

RYAN S. CLARK

Marvel Industries announces Richmond pullout, loss of 140 jobs

Business  |  May 2, 2008  |  Page 1A

By RYAN S. CLARK

STAFF WRITER

 

Local officials said Thursday they were frustrated upon learning from secondhand sources within the company about Marvel Industries' plan to leave Richmond.

 

Under a company consolidation plan, Marvel will relocate to its company's headquarters in Greenville, Mich., according to the Economic Development Corporation of Wayne County. That will cost the area 140 jobs, including 132 full-time positions. Greenville, which is located in central Michigan, is a city of 7,935 people, according to the 2000 U.S. Census.

 

Marvel, a high-end refrigerator manufacturer, has not said when it would be leaving Richmond, said Bob Hansen, the EDC's business retention manager.

 

It is also unknown if the company will offer its Richmond workers a chance to relocate. The move comes after state and local officials offered the company a $2.074 million incentive package to stay in Richmond.

 

"We have not received a voice or e-mail from them," said EDC President and CEO Jim Dinkle. "Here we are ready to put up $2.074 million and we can't even get a simple phone call back from them to tell us they are leaving."

 

Dinkle said he learned of the company's plans from Richmond Mayor Sally Hutton. Hutton said Thursday evening that she had received a phone call from a worker who said the company told the plant employees it was leaving town.

 

She said it was the first time she's heard secondhand of a company leaving.

 

"With the amount of work, time and effort that many people put in, it would have been nice to let us know," Hutton said. "I thought we had a great package and it was not enough. This was a first - even Target let me know when they were leaving."

 

Attempts were made by the Palladium-Item to seek a comment from Marvel Industries. Phone calls were made to the company's headquarters in Michigan, to its Richmond plant and to an international cell phone number for Gary Green. He is the group operations director for Aga Foodservice Group, which is Marvel Industries' main parent company based in the United Kingdom.

 

On Wednesday, the Indiana Economic Development Corporation offered an additional $1 million Economic Development for a Growing Economy or EDGE tax credit, which would have increased the offer to $34,000 per job, the EDC said. Indiana Secretary of State Nate Feldman said in a voice message to Dinkle that the state rarely offers EDGE tax credits because of funding issues.

 

Feldman also said that the EDC's attempt to keep Marvel was one of the best his office has seen recently. On April 9, executives from Marvel's parent American company, Northland Industries, told the EDC and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation its desire to consolidate its plants in Richmond and Greenville, but asked for incentives to stay, Dinkle and Hansen said.

 

By consolidating, Marvel Industries would have made Richmond its headquarters and provided the area with an additional 110 jobs, Dinkle said. Dinkle said within five hours of the company stating its plans, city officials met with the company's representatives in an effort to keep the company in Richmond.

 

Dinkle, Hansen, the EDC's board officers, Hutton, Richmond Common Council President Larry Parker and Metropolitan Development Director Tony Foster met with the representatives from Northland Industries, Dinkle said.

 

Following the meeting, the EDC met with an Indianapolis-based accounting firm to compare business and tax conditions in Indiana and Michigan. Marvel was offered 20 acres in the Midwest Industrial Park in Richmond free of charge, according to a proposal from the EDC. The proposal says land normally sells for $14,500 per acre and overall the company would have saved $290,000.

 

The EDC was also willing to assist Marvel Industries in obtaining a property tax abatement for new investments such as equipment, machinery or any new improvements to existing property. If Marvel Industries had invested at least $10 million into the Richmond plant, the abatement would have saved the company a little more than $1.1 million based on the current tax rate and Indiana state law.

 

The EDC also offered a $100,000 equipment moving grant, a $25,000 residential moving grant and a $200,000 Norfolk Southern rail service grant if the company required it. Community amenities such as five one-year memberships to Forest Hills Country Club were also offered. The EDC went as far as talking to multiple lenders and title companies about what they could do to help lure Marvel Industries into not only staying, but also expanding in Richmond.

 

"When it came time for them to step up to the plate, they batted a thousand," Dinkle said of the companies that were willing to help.

 

While the EDC was putting together an offer, it sent Hansen to Greenville.

 

Hansen said that Greenville "is clearly a less-desirable business location than Richmond for Marvel."

 

He said Greenville is 25 miles from the nearest interstate and has an unemployment rate of nearly 14 percent.

 

"Let me preface it by saying they are going to build a new plant in Greenville," Hansen said. "The existing plant is very old and from the outside very decrepit. It is obvious to see why they wanted out of that plant."

 

Dinkle said he hopes that the company or the state can do something to help the potentially displaced workers.

 

Hutton echoed Dinkle's sentiments.

 

She said to combat the recent loss of jobs between Marvel and Belden, which said last month it was cutting 14 percent of its Richmond work force, education is key.

 

"We have lost manufacturing jobs overseas and we are not going to bring back those $20-an-hour jobs unless we get a high-tech or life sciences firm," she said. "And that is something people must have education for." "Hopefully the state will put together a nice package for the displaced workers because when people have been someplace for 20 years and when they are in their 50s, it's hard to tell them to go back to school."

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