Balloons did not fill the room.
Confetti did not fall from the ceiling in the Abilene Public Library
However, the approval of the development agreement with Great Plains Manufacturing by the Abilene City Commission was reason to celebrate Monday.
“This is pretty historic for the community. This is the single largest capital growth project the city has had done in the last decade,” said City Manager Austin Gilley. “This is really, really a big deal. It’s a very exciting day.”
He called the anticipated 200 jobs over a 10-year period “a game-changing number for the community of Abilene”.
The company plans to convert the 350,000 square foot facility that was once the Alco Warehouse into a manufacturing location at a cost of at least $3.7 million for land and acquisition plus $7.9 million of machinery/equipment and remodel totaling $10.8 million to be invested over a five-year period.
The agreement states the company will employ not less than 30 full time with a wage equal or greater than $31,890 per year.
With the anticipation of 220 new jobs over the next 10 years, the city also approved a request for proposals for the Highland development.
The commission approved by unanimous vote a 10 year, 100 percent property tax abatement.
The city has also agreed to the construction of an extension of Eighth Street from Washington Street to Van Buren Street estimated at just over $2 million on or before Jan. 2, 2020.
He said the cost benefit analysis showed that for every $1 of tax incentive, the return is $2.10 in economic growth.
“That is a really good investment,” Gilley said. “I’m pretty sure you would take those odds to Vegas.”
Gilley said that road will also open up a corridor to Interstate 70 which could be attractive to other industry.
He said the city does not have $2 million and debt will have to be issued to pay for the road.
James Hall, with Great Plains Manufacturing, said that Abilene has been one of the first communities that Great Plains expanded after it started in 1976.
Expands to Abilene
He said in 1986 the Land Pride division was born and the Abilene plant went online in 1989.
“We did our first addition on the west side of that building in 1990,” he said.
Other expansions were made in 1997, 2004 and 2015-2016.
He said over 3,000 yards of concrete was poured for the last expansion to create the shipping lot.
“We thought, at that time, it would last us probably 7 to 8 years before we would outgrow it,” he said. “We have scurried on past that and it’s full.”
He said the company has had a partnership with Abilene for 29 years.
“We hope to be here for at least that much longer, if not longer,” Hall said.
“So do we,” said Mayor Tim Shafer.
The company currently employees 282 people, said Plant Manager Dana Dulohery, who gave community representatives a tour of the 191,000 square foot facility at 1100 N.W. Eighth when the expansion was announced in June.
The plant manufactures 15 different products and produces 300 products per day.
The city commission also approved unanimously the issuing of a request for proposals for the Land Bank holdings which mostly include the Highland Development in northwest Abilene off N.W. 14th Street and Flag Road.
“We want to give the private sector the opportunity to purchase this,” Gilley said.
The Land Bank, which is the city of Abilene, owns the property and the $3.1 million in debt.