Williamsburg City Council approves incentive grant for Firestone

Firestone staff pose during a groundbreaking ceremony in August. Firestone is currently expanding their Williamsburg facility in the hopes of adding 250 new full-time positions. | File Photo by Emily Adams-Bentley 

WILLIAMSBURG - Firestone Industrial Products Co. LLC, which plans to create 250 full-time jobs in Williamsburg with a $50 million expansion of the company’s automotive air springs manufacturing plant, is receiving an incentive to make sure those plans come to fruition, thanks to the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) and the Williamsburg City Council.

To encourage the investment and job growth in the community, KEDFA preliminarily approved a 15-year, performance-based incentive agreement with Firestone under the Kentucky Business Investment program, which could provide up to $6.5 million in tax incentives based on the company’s investment and annual targets of creating and maintaining 250 Kentucky-resident, full-time jobs across 15 years; and paying an average hourly wage of $29 including benefits across those jobs.

On Thursday, Williamsburg City Mayor Roddy Harrison called a special-called city council meeting to discuss and approve a resolution that will ultimately see Firestone receive an Economic Development Fund grant from KEDFA through the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development in an amount not to exceed $150,000.

The resolution will see the City of Williamsburg and Firestone submit an application to KEDFA for approval of the grant, for which the city will act as a vehicle for Firestone to receive the money.

“We are just a vehicle that is, I’d hate to say passthrough, but I guess it is. I guess you could just say it’s a passthrough,” Harrison said.

Because the city is just acting as a vehicle for the funds to be passed through to Firestone, Harrison stressed on multiple occasions the city would not be on the hook for anything financially.

“We have absolutely no money involved in this. It will not come back on us. We will not owe anybody. We won’t have to cover anything,” Harrison said. “There just needs to be either a county or city in which that that falls through or comes through. An official has to sign the grant papers.”

Harrison said in order for Firestone to receive the money, it must meet the 250 new, full-time employee goal in five years. After that, the $150,000 will be paid out in four annual $37,500 installments to the company, which again is being funded through the state and not the City of Williamsburg.

Founded in 1936 and headquartered in Nashville, Firestone Industrial Products is a subsidiary of Bridgestone Americas Inc. and manufactures air springs and related products for commercial trucks and trailers, passenger vehicles including sport-utility vehicles and minivans, light trucks, motor homes, buses, agricultural equipment, rail and industrial applications.

Firestone opened its Whitley County operation in 1989, currently employs more than 500 people and produces approximately 4 million parts annually.

According to correspondence from the Governor’s office following Firestone’s expansion announcement, KEDFA also approved the company for up to $350,000 in tax incentives through the Kentucky Enterprise Initiative Act (KEIA). KEIA allows approved companies to recoup Kentucky sales and use tax on construction costs, building fixtures, equipment used in research and development and electronic processing.

By meeting its annual targets over the agreement term, the company can be eligible to keep a portion of the new tax revenue it generates. The company may claim eligible incentives against its income tax liability and/or wage assessments.

In addition, the company can receive resources from the Kentucky Skills Network. Through the Kentucky Skills Network, companies can receive no-cost recruitment and job placement services, reduced-cost customized training and job training incentives.

Work on the expansion project is expected to be completed by December 2022.

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