Sunday, 21 August 2011 15:38

Polyplex preparations

Decatur Daily
Morgan County, Decatur employees clearing future home of facility
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Clean-up work continued last week at the Polyplex USA facility being built in Mallard Fox Creek Industrial Park in Decatur.

Three Morgan County District 1 shop employees and a Decatur city employee started clearing the 42-acre site almost two weeks ago. They’ve removed the trees, District 1 Commissioner Jeff Clark said Friday.

“The loggers are finished, and we are currently digging up stumps and burning them and brush,” Clark said. “Hopefully this will keep Polyplex officials on schedule with their finish date.”

The tentative completion is the fourth quarter of 2012.

Bobby Collins Logging Co. of Eva hauled away the trees that county and city workers cut down, Clark said.

“They’ve probably taken out close to 100 loads of trees,” Clark said. “Our job is to clear and grub the site, and Polyplex will have their contractor to do the site work to prepare for construction.”

Clark said employees cleared about 20 or 25 acres of the site.

The joint county/city in-kind incentive is worth about $200,000, he said. Polyplex received other incentives, including a noneducational, 10-year property tax abatement of about $547,000, and $350,000 worth of cash incentives over seven years if the company meets its employment milestones. The company is receiving unspecified incentives from the state.

Polyplex USA, which produces thin plastic film used mainly in food packaging, is moving its U.S. headquarters from the Dallas area to Decatur. The company’s other plants are in India, Thailand and Turkey.

Jeremy Nails, executive director of the Morgan County Economic Development Association, expects more companies to come to Morgan County.

“I think in the next five years we will see steel-related projects and automotive manufacturing projects surface,” he said. “Industrial growth is like the economy. It goes in cycles. I’m hopeful it will continue.”

Years ago there was no place for industry to locate in Morgan County.

Lynn Fowler, chairman of the Morgan County Economic Development Association and a former mayor of Decatur, recalled when Morgan lost a steel plant to another state.

“We had no infrastructure waiting for them to locate,” Fowler said. “They were anxious to announce their plan, but we were not ready and couldn’t accommodate them. The plant went to Louisiana. This prompted us to look for ways to develop a park out there so we would be able to land new industry.”

Brainstorming followed the loss.

“It was the early 1980s when the idea surfaced about what we could do with the cooperation of the municipalities and the county,” Fowler said. “We determined that we could take a portion of Tennessee Valley Authority in-lieu-of-tax funds and float a bond issue with costs to be shared by eight municipalities in the county and the County Commission.

“Everybody came together and we floated an $8 million bond. We built sewer and roads, and our infrastructure was intact. That was the beginning of Mallard Fox Creek.”

Former state Rep. Bill Dukes, who was Decatur’s mayor at the time, marveled at the cities and county working together.

“I still get excited when I talk about it,” Dukes said. “There was nothing out there but houses, and with everybody working together, the industrial park came into being. No one tried to take credit. It was an accomplishment for everyone. We felt that if we developed the park, industry would come.”

Hexcel, then known as Hispan, built first. The company announced its plan to locate here in July 1988.

“Independence Tube was first to buy land, but they didn’t build for several years later,” Fowler said. “So, Hexcel came along and built first.”

Today, the park is filling up, but still there’s room to grow.

Polyplex plans to build a $187 million facility that will ultimately employ 150 people.

“We’ve definitely seen an increase in project activity in the past six months from the slowdown of two years ago,” Nails said. “We’re not only seeing companies take an interest in our area for new facilities, but we are seeing our existing industries move forward with expansions.”

Hexcel is making a $100 million investment that will yield 25 new jobs, and Ascend has a $28.75 million expansion under way that will add up to 10 jobs.

Independence Tube, which was destroyed during the April 27 tornado outbreak, is rebuilding at a cost of $30.5 million, Nails said.

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