Thursday, Sept. 2

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Plan that helps Formosa plant rebuild
may also bring energy plant    
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[SEPT. 2, 2004]  Community leaders heard a plan that could save a factory and help get the long-hoped-for energy plant built in Elkhart. A representative of the Formosa Plastics plant explained how an extension from the Lincoln/Logan County Enterprise Zone to Illiopolis will provide compounded benefits. The kicker to this proposal is to piggyback an extension to the CornBelt Energy site at Elkhart as well. A previous attempt to extend the zone to Elkhart failed when it reached the state level.

Helping a neighbor

Even though Formosa is situated in Sangamon County, the Lincoln/Logan County Enterprise Zone is permitted to be extended to them. Steven McClure of Opportunity Alliance from Springfield said that Sangamon County is requesting this. They do not have an enterprise zone. He also said that this is not uncommon to extend from one county to another when there is a site-specific need.

Springfield has an enterprise zone, but they have no interest in extending as far as Illiopolis. An extension requires a three-foot strip extension to the property to make it contiguous.

When all else fails, ask an expert

McClure explained the ins and outs of getting the job done to a full house at the regular meeting of the regional planning commission on Wednesday evening. He said that he is not only familiar with the statutes of the Enterprise Zone Act, he wrote them. He was the Department of Economic Development and Community Affairs director when the program was initiated under former Gov. Thompson.

A set number of enterprise zones were set up throughout Illinois with the intention to help communities with economic development.

The goals are to:

  1. Promote investment.
  2. Create and retain jobs.
  3. Allow Illinois to compete in the global economy.

How will enterprise zone businesses and area benefit?

Formosa plant manager Roe Vadis and CornBelt Energy representative Dave Hawkinson both gave testimony as to how the zone would help their businesses.

The majority of the Formosa plant was destroyed in a midnight explosion on April 23, tragically claiming the lives of several employees. Being in an enterprise zone will not only help Formosa save on rebuilding costs but will also provide huge savings on a state-imposed natural gas tax. The plant was planning a $10-million-dollar expansion before the explosion, but to rebuild and do the expansion will now cost closer to $80 million.

Formosa has two plants making a special "benchmark" PVC product that is No. 1 in the world. Their plans for rebuilding and expansion fit all three of the above enterprise zone criteria.

CornBelt Energy has been "chasing dollars" for a couple of years, trying to get finances set to build an energy plant just outside Elkhart, CornBelt representative Dave Hawkinson said. Everything was looking pretty good for it to happen a couple of years ago when they had applied for a Lincoln/Logan Enterprise Zone extension. The extension was approved locally but shot down by the state because it did not meet poverty or unemployment criteria. At that time steel prices shot up also and pushed the construction cost just out of reach.

 

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The plant anticipates saving $6 million to $8 million just on construction cost sales tax. "These are really important numbers for the viability of the project," Hawkinson said.

The energy plant has the support of the village of Elkhart, Mayor Dayle Eldredge said. Elkhart plans to offer the plant their TIF district incentive in conjunction with the enterprise zone.

The extension must be approved by both the Lincoln City Council and the Logan County Board. If approved by them, it will then move on to the state for approval.

The state uses census increments and evaluates each extension request for economic and unemployment needs. Bringing both extensions through together will help Elkhart pass state criteria.

Both the projects will bring a couple of years of construction work, increase local and regional economic activity, and provide ongoing jobs.

  1. The economic impact affects the entire area and helps the whole regional economy.
  2. Formosa will pay an annual $10,000 fee to Lincoln and Logan County. A check for $5,000 will go directly to each entity.

The blue shaded area denotes the zone expansion.

There are two more significant advantages for Lincoln and Logan County to extend their enterprise zone to both Elkhart and Sangamon County.

  1. The extension increases the number of government units in the enterprise zone from two to four: Lincoln, Logan County, Elkhart and Sangamon County. This increases the current maximum territory from 12 square miles to 15 square miles.
    Current Lincoln/Logan County Enterprise Zone: 5 square miles used of a total of 12 square miles, leaving 7 square miles available.
    The proposed extension takes three-fourths of a square mile at Formosa and eight-tenths at the power plant site, bringing the area to 6-plus square miles used of 15 square miles available in the enterprise zone with the 3 square miles gained by adding two more government units.
  2. The current enterprise zone agreement with the state of Illinois expires in 2007. McClure will do the work to renew the contract for another 10 years.

Skeptical, hopeful and uncommitted listeners at the presentation expressed strong appreciation by meeting's end of the efforts of those who put the information and plan together. They voted unanimously to recommend the plan to the local governments.

[Jan Youngquist]

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