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High Stakes in Tax Abatement Struggle Between Monroe Co, Printpack

Part II: Trying to Keep Printpack Local, Monroe Also Wary of Its Tactics

Printpack, a packaging company with a plant in Bloomington, is seeking a 10-year tax abatement from the county. But even though the business has just used up a 10-year abatement from the city, leaders are threatening to pack up if the company is not offered more economic incentives.

Printpack  manufactures the plastic wrapping found on many of the breads and baked goods lining any grocery store’s shelves. The business employs 151 workers, each of whom earn an average wage of about $18 an hour, but just 65 of those employees live in Monroe County.

County Council member Julie Thomas says she likes that Printpack management encourages continuing education and even has a fitness center for employees. What she doesn’t like is that the company has already had an abatement once before and is asking for a second one.

“Tax abatements are given by cities and counties and in the case of Printpack they took over a company which had a tax abatement from the city and the tax abatement goes with the property so, that tax abatement ends, interestingly enough, this year,” Thomas said.

“So, I’m afraid of this idea of juggling between county and city and then leaving behind a huge factory, and then in 10-years are they moving back to the city and then leaving another building empty?”

The abatement would work on a 10-year plan, with the percentage of its taxes Printpack pays slowly increasing over time.  A tentative agreement put forth by the County Council would cut the company’s taxes on its building and land in half and reduce payments on machinery and equipment by about two-thirds.

But Thomas says she’s not sure that’s fair.

“What we’re doing is we’re saying the public will give up money so that a business will be here. There aren’t a whole lot of people that work there-151. They may add 3 to 4 new jobs. May. And not everybody that works there is a Monroe County resident and as you know you pay income tax on your income based on where you live not where you work,” Thomas said.

“So we’re getting very little out of this but putting a lot of money and services to a company and keep your fingers crossed, if we approve of an abatement keep our fingers crossed they’re going to stay, they’re going to grow in a responsible way -I hope they do, but there are a lot of ifs in that statement.”

Printpack Vice President of Operations Stephen Eastham says he thinks members of the community will benefit.

We’re not asking for anything that is unusual or extremely high we will be paying just under 2.4 million dollars where if we stayed in our current building it would be roughly half that. We are doubling our tax base with the abatement with the phased in tax approach. That seems to be missing in a lot of the conversations,” Eastham said.

“Everybody’s focusing on the tax relief side and not looking at well what is left in the actual taxes paid. All this discussion around these tremendous dollars that are involved, from a county perspective, the county breaks even in year three and starts gaining in years after that.”

Still, Thomas says that’s not enough to change her “No” vote, even as Printpack threatens to leave the community without an abatement, leaving local workers with jobs.

Does Printpack deserve the benefit of a tax abatement and inclusion in zoning which offers even more economic benefits or is the company taking advantage of a sagging economy in Monroe County and the nation?  A look at those and other questions Monday in the conclusion to this series.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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