A tax break recommended by an Oak Ridge board on Monday could help a parts manufacturer more than double the size of its plant and add 20-30 workers, an executive said.
The Oak Ridge Industrial Development Board endorsed the five-year, 100 percent property tax break for Protomet—which makes marine, automotive, and homeland security equipment—in a special meeting Monday.
But Oak Ridge City Council member Anne Garcia Garland suggested there could be some opposition later. She said residents want to know why Protomet, which has become successful with the help of one tax abatement, should receive another.
“They are not going to going to understand any 100 percent abatements of anything,” Garcia Garland said, referring to some Oak Ridge residents. “We helped these people become successful.”
IDB members, though, called Protomet’s expansions a success story and recommended the tax break to Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson, who will review it before sending it to City Council. There was no opposition from the six IDB members present at Monday’s special meeting.
“It’s a tremendous success story,” IDB member Chris Johnson said.
The abatement, or payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) agreement, would apply only to new investment at the eight-acre site on Larson Drive in the Bethel Valley Industrial Park. The request has to be approved by Council because it falls outside the city’s standard tax incentive matrix.
Protomet President Jeff Bohanan said the company’s Phase II expansion would add about 21,000 square feet at the 15,000-square-foot plant, enlarge the assembly area, and provide more space for machining tools. It would also allow the company to consolidate with 4FinalFinish, an aluminum finishing business that Protomet took over in 2008. 4FinalFinish now operates independently in Blount County. That adds a half-dozen extra steps, and parts have to shipped back and forth between the two plants, Bohanan said.
Protomet’s first expansion was in 2005. The company received a four-year, 100 percent tax abatement then, but the city’s policies have since changed.
Bohanan said Protomet would continue to pay existing property taxes through the new abatement period if the tax break is approved. This year, he said, the company will pay $38,000 in taxes.
At a time when many manufacturing jobs are going overseas, Protomet could invest up to $6 million in Oak Ridge during the next three years, Bohanan said. He said more than 30 employees would start working in Anderson County, including those who are now working at the aluminum finishing operation in Blount County.
Protomet started in 1997, and among other things, it makes uranium detection devices for homeland security and mirror assemblies for tow boats.