Finance Committee Chairman Michael Bloom and member David Bond endorsed the creation of an economic opportunity area and tax incentive for a company looking to move 100 jobs to the city.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city is hoping a Hoosick Falls, N.Y., company will make its beds — lots of them — in North Adams. The move could bring at least 100 jobs.
WCW Inc., a family-owned manufacturer of bedding for hospitals and the hospitality industry, is eyeing the former Sprague Electric building in the Hardman Industrial Park. The growing venture wants to consolidate all three of its current facilities into one operation.
The Finance Committee on Wednesday eagerly endorsed a request by Mayor Richard Alcombright to designate the nearly 100,000 square-foot building and property in the industrial park an economic opportunity area and the accompanying five-year special property tax assessment. A resolution and tax incentive will go before the City Council on Aug. 23.
The incentive is part of a package to sweeten the deal over a competing site in Manchester, Vt.
"[Owner] John Wilkinson really likes North Adams, he's made that very clear," said Alcombright, who was knowledgeable about what Vermont was offering. "I looked at the numbers that he had ... we certainly seemed to be very, very competitive; in fact, I think we're more competitive."
The mayor said the condition and size of the building, the city's lower property prices and taxes, significantly lower state workers compensation rates and state tax credits, and McCann Technical School and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts were all attractors. It also hasn't hurt that Housing and Economic Development Secretary Gregory Bialecki has spoken to the Wilkinsons on the city's behalf.
In a letter of intent to the mayor, WCW President Jeffrey Wilkinson wrote, "this project would involve the purchase of an existing building suitable to allow the relocation of our entire operation and staff. This would involved relocation of approximately 100 jobs with an annual payroll in excess of $4 million."
Local and state officials have been working with the company to bring the deal to fruition over the past six weeks.
"This is by far the most exciting, encouraging thing since ... Mass MoCA," said Councilor Keith Bona.
Michael L. Vedovelli, regional director for the state Office of Business Development, said the City Council's approval will be necessary to wrap up a package including state tax credits by a September deadline for the Economic Assistance Coordinating Council.
"It's viewed as a three-way partnership with all parties coming together," he said, describing the state's package as "aggressive."
Where a TIF, or tax increment financing, agreement allows reductions on capital investments, the STA provides for property tax discounts over the entire value. That's important, said Alcombright, because investment into the building is expected to be small while the assessment on the property is $2.2 million.
WCW mattresses are sold to hospital and hotels — and exported to China.
"The STA will provide, I believe, the incentive we need to have this company locate in North Adams," said the mayor. "Their commitment, on the other hand, is the purchase of the building, capital improvements, corporate growth and expansion of jobs over time."
The STA would would tax the company at 25 percent increments, starting at 0 and ending at 100 percent over the five years.
John Wilkinson has been in the bedding business for some 30 years; WCW was established in 1992 and holds 16 patents for various types of bedding and mattresses. It currently operates an administrative headquarters and a manufacturing facility for sewing, foam cutting and assembly in Hoosick Falls and customer call center in Bennington, Vt.
WCW is looking to relocate before the end of the year and the former Sprague building is "the perfect size" for them, said the mayor. The structure is about 20 years old; it has been vacant for some years but is in good condition. It also has space to the south that would allow for future expansion.
About 80 percent of current jobholders are expected to follow the company; that percentage would decrease as jobs opened for local residents and the company expanded.
Alcombright and Michael Nuvallie of the Office of Community Development toured the facility last week and were impressed with the operation. In addition to being family owned and an American manufacturer (that exports to China), the company is very green: everything is recycled, it's very clean and it uses nontoxic materials.
"I think everybody in this city is ready for some good news," said Bond. He asked, "is there any way for the council, the community, to communicate with this company and really let them know ... how well received they would be?"
"I think supporting the STA shows how committed you as a council and the city of North Adams are toward this project," said Vedovelli, "and if you're talking about welcome, I think that's a very strong sign."
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Voting Registration Deadlines
:: Preliminary Election: Deadline to register is Wednesday, Sept. 7. (Office open from 8 to 8.)
:: General Election: Deadline to register is Tuesday, Oct. 18
Registration can be completed at the city clerk's office at City Hall.
Absentee ballots are now available at the city clerk's office for the Sept. 27 preliminary city election. Voters may come in between the hours of 8 and 4:30 weekdays. Written reguests for mailed ballots can be sent to City Clerk's Office, 10 Main St., North Adams, MA 01247. Deadline for absentee ballots is Monday, Sept. 26, at noon.
The preliminary election will be held Tuesday, Sept. 27, to narrow the field of three mayoral candidates to two. The general election to select nine city councilors and a mayor will be held Tuesday, Nov. 8.