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Council Report : Council considers ‘sweet’ tax deal to retain food company

🕐 8 min read

The Fort Worth City Council at its work session on Nov. 15 heard a presentation from the economic development department proposing a tax abatement agreement with Parker Products, which makes ingredients used in foods and drinks.

The plan calls for consolidating corporate operations on 11 acres at the northwest corner of Loop 820 and Strawn Lane. Parker Products features baking, dairy, beverage, confectionary and more. The 85,000-square-foot facility would include warehouse space, corporate offices, research and development areas and manufacturing space. The company currently has several locations around the area.

Parker Products was founded in Fort Worth in 1926 by I.C. Parker, creator of the “Drumstick” novelty ice cream treat. The company makes confectionary ingredients used in foods and beverages. Among the products are pralines, candy coatings, clusters, liquid flavors and candies. Customers include Starbucks and Dot Foods.

Tax abatement programs reduce or eliminate the amount of property tax owners pay on new construction, rehabilitation and/or major improvements. The savings can be substantial, and often an incentive for a company to move or stay in a certain location.

“This is another retention project for us where a local company is looking at consolidating and expansion opportunities, and we are facing competition from Oklahoma,” Fort Worth Director of Economic Development Robert Sturns said.

“We are looking to keep approximately 100 jobs that could grow to 200 over the next several years,” he said. “They are making some strong commitments to Fort Worth hiring, and the jobs pay well, so this was a key part of our analysis in looking at the deal and structuring an incentive agreement.”

According to the presentation, Parker Products has committed to invest $17.5 million in real and business personal property investment by the end of 2017 in the project. The company would retain 100 full-time employees and create 30 new full-time jobs as part of the consolidation. Development officials are proposing a 10-year, 50 percent tax abatement on real and business personal property, valued at $639,000. Council will consider the proposal on Dec. 13.

RMG relocation plan

The Fort Worth City Council took a step Nov. 15 that could lead to the city and its legendary Stockyards being a regular on network television.

The council approved an agreement between the city’s economic development group and Rural Media Group (RMG) Inc. The agreement supports a corporate relocation project for RMG to the Stockyards, along with a community facilities agreement with Fort Worth Heritage Development LLC for public improvements in the Stockyards.

Economic Development Director Robert Sturns equated the proposed RMG broadcasts from the Stockyards to those of the Today Show in New York’s Rockefeller Center or Dallas’ WFAA TV in Victory Plaza. Both of those have programming that allows the viewers to not only see programming inside a studio, but to also view activity outside.

Sturns said there has been a four-year effort to bring RMG headquarters to Fort Worth. It is currently based in Nashville, Tennessee, and Omaha, Nebraska.

RMG is also the parent company of RFD-TV, the nation’s first network devoted to agribusiness and Western sports. It is broadcast in over 50 million households.

Though the council has given approval, the relocation is not a done deal. Sturns said there have also been discussions between RMG and Durango, Colorado, as the Professional Bull Riders headquarters are there. RMG also is considering consolidating its offices into Omaha.

The project would bring a 6,000-square-foot studio to the Stockyards’ mule barns area. It would also bring up to 150 employees to Fort Worth.

However, Sturns noted that cost is a barrier for RMG’s potential relocation. Hence, the work with Fort Worth Heritage, the city, tax increment funding and the state to make this happen.

The overall cost is projected to be $7.8 million, Sturns said, which could be funded through a community facilities agreement capped at $7.9 million. Should the cost exceed that, the rest would be covered by Heritage, he said. If RMG does not relocate or stay for the full 10 years of the proposed lease agreement, a provision is in place to recapture the funds.

RMG’s part of the agreement would include a minimum $5 million investment, with a guarantee of 90 full-time employees by 2021 and 135 by 2023. Also, RMG would guaranteed $15-an-hour minimum wages.

RMG would also make commitments for Fort Worth and central city governments, commitments for local and minority/women owned businesses.

In addition, RMG would enter into an agreement with the city and the Convention and Visitors Bureau to promote verbal and visual references to Fort Worth and the Stockyards. This would include a minimum of 100 hours of annual live or ongoing content filmed locally, something Sturns said is worth about $7 million.

In connection with the potential relocation is the moving up of public improvements to the Stockyards, including Main Street to Packer Street and sewer line upgrades and rerouting from Mule Avenue to 23rd Street.

Garden plan moving forward

The city council accepted the completed Fort Worth Botanic Garden (FWBG) Strategic Plan from the EMD Consulting Group and will refer it to City Manager David Cooke and his staff for review.

The plan was developed with representatives of the Fort Worth Botanical Society (FWBS) and its Garden Center Committee (FWGC), Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT) and Texas Garden Clubs (TGC).

The purpose of the plan was to:

*Prepare baseline information for the FWBG’s current operations, including benchmarking with comparable institutions.

*Conduct an organizational analysis of strengths and challenges.

*Reconsider the FWBG’s mission.

*Create a unified vision in cooperation with support groups.

*Review and provide steps for implementing the adopted 2010 FWBG master plan.

*Set goals and develop objectives and timelines for achieving them.

*Provide a financial analysis plan to assure that current and future operating needs are met.

The five key goals developed from the strategic plan are:

*Transform the guest experience.

*Expand public programs.

*Implement key parts of the 2010 Master Plan.

*Repair, renovate and improve gardens, features and facilities.

*Reorganize support groups and increase private support.

The plan also provides broad comparisons to other successful gardens around the country and includes recommendations to make the Fort Worth Botanic Garden a greater experience. Among these are working in concert with the support groups, and consideration of a general admission fee.

The staff will also begin the process of conducting a facilities assessment for an anticipated amount of up to $350,000. The FWBS and FWGC will directly fund and conduct visitor intercept surveys and provide them to the city upon completion.

Actions for the next 12 months include:

*Resolve governance issues.

*Identify needed capital infrastructure costs.

*Assemble more visitor information.

No action will be taken regarding entrance fees and additional capital improvements at this time. Receipt of the plan does not imply plan acceptance of all of the recommendations.

A copy of the plan is available on the city’s website.

Enterprise zones

The council also approved a local agreement with Tarrant County to support the county’s nomination of Andrews Distributing Co. of North Texas LLC, EFW Inc. and Alcon Laboratories for Texas Enterprise Zone nominations.

The Texas Enterprise Zone Program is an economic development tool for local communities to partner with the state to promote job creation and capital investment in economically distressed areas.

Andrews qualifies for a single Enterprise Project Designation (EPD) with a projected capital investment of $35 million in the construction of a new distribution center. It will retain 490 jobs and 10 new jobs will be created.

EFW qualifies for a single EPD with a projected capital investment of $32,500 in software, test equipment, building renovations, machinery and marketing demonstration equipment projects at its Tarrant County facilities. It will retain 544 jobs.

Alcon qualifies for a single EPD with a projected capital investment of $78.4 million for expansion and renovation of its operations at the existing site, 6201 South Freeway. The company will retain its workforce of 1,469 employees and 100 full-time jobs, with an average salary of $89,994.

A single project designation allows for a state sales and use tax refund on qualified expenditures of $2,500 per job, for up to 500 jobs, with a maximum benefit of $1.25 million over five years. Under the Texas Enterprise Zone Act at least 25 percent of the business’ new or retained employees would be residents of an enterprise zone, economically disadvantaged individuals or veterans. In addition, the jobs will be provided through the end of the designation period, or at least three years after the date on which a state benefit is received, whichever is later.

Other news:

• The council approved a change of deadline for the first phase of the Clearfork Development Co. LLC mixed-use project near the southwest intersection of West Vickery Boulevard and South Hulen Street. The planned development, approved by the city council in February 2014, is to be built in two phases. The first phase was to be completed by Dec. 31, 2016, but has now been given an extension to March 1 because of inclement weather during the early stages. All remaining future deadlines to stay in place.

• A request has been filed to create a Public Improvement District (PID) at Rock Creek Ranch. Council approved acceptance of the filing and set a public hearing for Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. at which the council and the developer will be able to make comments and answer questions. Work in the PID will include water lines, a sewer system and streets. Total cost is expected to be about $21 million. If approved, the PID is a geographically-bounded district that has agreed to tax itself to raise funds for specific purposes.

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