Commissioners Hear Sunflower’s Expansion Proposal

Representatives of AGCO, better known to this area as "Sunflower Manufacturing Co," presented their expansion proposal to the Mitchell County Commissioners this morning. Their proposal will invest sixteen million dollars in this county.

Ron Harris, Vice President of Operations: Tim Kresky, Operations Controller; Tyler Odle; Sarah Steele, Gilmore & Bell; along with local Attorney, Curt Frasier as acting Legal Council, met with the county commissioners. Mitchell County Attorney Mark Noah was present as legal council for the county.

Prior to the actual presentation, Sarah Steele, representing Gilmore & Bell, met with Commissioners Mike Cooper, Tom Claussen and Jim Marshall, County Attorney Mark Noah and County Clerk Chris Treaster in an executive session to discuss Consulting Attorney/Client Relationships.

Chairman Cooper called a Public Hearing to discuss Industrial Revenue Bonds and take any questions the public has about how they work. This is something none of the present commission had ever dealt with before. AGCO is asking Mitchell County to sign a resolution approving sixteen-million dollars in Industrial Revenue Bonds with a 100 percent tax-abatement clause for the company for 10-years and no sales tax on new project costs.

Harris said this plan would be a win-win situation for everybody involved. It will bring new residents to Mitchell County by creating more jobs, increase school funding and add students to the school district and increase tax property base and evaluation. In short, it would have far reaching benefits over all, he said.

Kresky explained the reason AGCO is expanding at this time is because they are leaving market opportunities on the table and losing market shares, due to the fact they are totally out of room. The company sees tremendous opportunities for additional sales by adding additional equipment and buildings to the plant. This plan will use data driven robotic technology to reduce welding costs while boosting output thus streamlining the operation for more efficiency, he said

Harris said AGCO has owned Sunflower MFG. since November 2002. They impacts Mitchell County in many ways. At the present time AGCO employs approximately 475 people. With the new expansion they hope to raise this headcount by 150 to 170 employees if their business continues to grow at the rate it has been. They provide good paying jobs that help stimulate the local economy. The company paid out $22.0 million in wages in 201, provided $3.8 million in health insurance and $1.9 in payroll taxes. They pay approximately $200k in property taxes each year.

Harris told the commissioners they have made a long-term commitment to this location as demonstrated by their major capital investment programs. They plan to invest in people and continue to grow their company in Beloit. He and Kresky both alluded to rumors that have circulated in the past but said the company has great affinity with both the City of Beloit and Mitchell County and are very committed to this location. Mitchell County is AGCO's number one choice for this expansion project, they said.

There is a problem with expansion room since their operation is somewhat land locked. Their only opportunity to expand is by going to the east and the north. This will be a two-year project. They will be doing land work and paving in 2013 and install new equipment, rearrange the south and middle end of the plant, add a building on the north and rearrange the existing building on the north. Total capitol involved will be $9,114 in 2013 and $7,152 in 2014 for a total capital and expense amount of $16,266.

While the Commissioners were very agreeable to the project and the positive impact it would have to the county in general they had questions that needed to be answered. Attorney Curt Frasier presented a cost benefit analysis on the project. Doug McKinney, North Central Planning Commission, spoke on the advantages he can see to the project.

Commissioner Claussen questioned whether this county would have the population to support that big a work force and the expressed concern for housing for that many people. Chairman Cooper said the county wouldn't have much expense but also a particular income. Commissioners and Clerk Treaster brought up the speed the project was presented to them. They just received the information last Friday afternoon and had first seen the resolution just this morning. Kresky said their concern was getting this done before winter set in. Attorney Frasier assured them they were not trying to force something down their throats with this short time frame and there is nothing hidden in the action. Attorney Noah agreed they have a legitimate concern about the speed of the need for a decision.

Chairman Cooper said the commissioners agree the project would be great for the county and they want the economy to stay strong but their biggest concern is not
to set the county up for any problems. They have an obligation to their county constituents to check this out, he said. Sarah Steele assured them Industrial Revenue Bonds were not in any way a debt or a liability for the county and do not county against the county's debt limit. County Attorney Noah said the Commissioners just want to look the information over and surely one-week delay wouldn't be a deal breaker. It was agreed that it would not.

The Chairman closed the Public Hearing and then assured the AGCO representatives and others involved they will expedite this decision as soon as possible but would like to have time to look the information over before making that decision. He scheduled the decision for their May 20, meeting agenda at 9:30.

Doug McKinney, North Central Planning Commission and Steve Robb of Municipal Consulting LLC presented a financial analysis on Clean-Line Energy, the company that wants to run a transmission line across 35 miles of Mitchell County land. The commissioners thanked them for the information that gave them a clearer idea of what this transmission line would mean to the county.

David Thornton, County Appraiser, was present and requested a 15-minute executive session for Client Privilege Information with Attorney Noah, Sarah Steel and Clerk Treaster present. No decisions were made.

Larry Emerson, Public Works, brought in his decision on the truck bids that were presented last week. After looking all the information over, he wants to go with the Kenworth truck bid that is $2,000 cheaper and has a Cummings Engine. This company also gave them $18,000 trade-in where the other only allowed $12,000. Commissioners approved the bid for $92,760 with trade in. He will get bids on the dump box to go on the back. After discussion he decided to go with the Urea additive truck option. It will all be painted yellow like the rest of their trucks. The new backhoe for the landfill will be coming in from Topeka this Thursday.

They have 3 miles of the Tipton road left to gravel. They moved a guardrail east of Tipton between two bridges to widen the opening to 12 to 14 feet. Some dirt work is left to do and then they will start on asphalt work, Emerson said.

Ed Debesis, EMS Director gave his monthly report and talked about some training he is taking. They had 32 calls from Beloit and 12 from Cawker City for a total of 44 calls for the month and 198 for the year to date. Still having problems at Cawker station with people just walking in instead of calling 911 for service. His concern is something serious will come in and nobody will be at the station to take care of it.

Todd Dunstan, of Dunstan Trucking, discussed their recycling efforts. The commissioners agreed it is a good program for residential areas but after discussion decided they already have the courthouse recycling needs covered.

Commissioner Clausson discussed the Affordable Health Act Public Education Program meeting that is coming up on Wednesday, May 29, at 5:30 p.m. in the Municipal Building basement meeting room. To register call the Beloit Extension office at 785-738-3597. Deadline to register is May 24, 2013.

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