Hopkins County Commissioners Court approved 2 tax incentives and a reinvestment zone for a planned solar farm, among other items, during the regular court meeting Monday morning.
My Perfect Pet Agreement
Sulphur Springs-Hopkins County Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Roger Feagley asked the Commissioners Court to consider approving two Chapter 381 agreements.
First, Feagley told the court My Perfect Pet was requesting a 10-year Chapter 381 agreement. The gourmet dog food maker would, under the agreement, be required to pay taxes for the Sulphur Springs facility, then upon providing proof the business is meeting all terms of the agreement would be reimbursed for a total of 55 percent of the taxes for the business over the 10 years.
My Perfect Pet relocated its operations from a San Diego, California suburb to Sulphur Springs. The goal was to provide 30 new jobs to the area. However, according to Feagley, owner Karen Neola is having difficulty finding workers to fill all positions. Feagley said it was thought with the food industries in the area there would be plenty of food workers to apply to help make the USDA-quality foods, which are sent frozen for sale through distributors.
The court granted the requested 381 agreement for My Perfect Pet.
D6 Inc. Agreement
Feagley also noted the Commissioners Court was being asked to consider approving a Chapter 381 Agreement for D6 Inc., not for the entire operation but for the planned 25000 Square foot expansion at the facility.
D6 Inc. out of Portland, Oregon has purchased the building known locally as the old Coca-Cola building, but which was most recently been the location for S&S Commercial operations, where the business plans to make aluminum pie pans and Danish trays, including the plastic that goes on them. The business uses recycled aluminum and plastics. D6 Inc. also makes personal protective equipment, specifically plastic face shields.
The business plans to initially hire 30 individuals, pay taxes on the original building, but asked for a 381 agreement for the new building being constructed onsite. The business’ original plan was to hire 70 employees, but the agreement the court approved was for 30 employees. Feagley said the business is putting equipment in place in the building but isn’t fully operational yet, but has begun hiring employees. Like Neola, Feagley said D6 indicated the business is having a hard time filling positions.
Also, if all goes according to plan, D6 Inc. is planning another expansion in about 18 months, which would provide jobs for additional employees, with a goal of employing up to 90 total employees at the Sulphur Springs facility.
“They are hiring people. They are not up to 30 people yet,” Feagley noted.
The court approved the request.
Bright Arrow Solar Reinvestment Zone
During a public hearing for a request to establish a reinvestment zone for Bright Arrow Solar LLC, Feagley reported the new solar farm is planned off State Highway 11 west in Precinct 4, on three separate properties. The farm is estimated to be a $275 million project plus cost of batteries, upon approval of agreements for tax incentives, is anticipated to being construction in the second quarter of 2021 and with about 300 people working take about 18 months to construct.
Approval of a reinvestment zone will allow the hospital district at a future date consider granting a tax abatement for the solar project and allow the county in the future to approve a 381 agreement for the project as well.
“It seems as if all the solar projects will start at the same time. Do we have the work force for that?” Precinct 1 Commissioner Mickey Barker asked.
Feagley said it is his understanding currently most the planned solar projects — there are currently 4 in Hopkins County — are expected to get started in the next 6-10 months. The Pine Forest Solar project could begin as early as next month. Most have indicated to Feagley plans to begin in the first or second quarter of 2021, he noted.
The EDC director explained that the companies will bring in most of a the contract labor force, and will be filling local hotels, apartments, and places where travel trailers can park. Some may “spill over to Greenville” or other surrounding areas as well.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Price said it was his understanding the Bright Arrow Solar project plans to construct a road through the property off of State Highway 11 west instead of using county roads like other project. He asked Feagley if that was his understanding as well, or if the Bright Arrow agreement would, like the other projects, include a fee for use of the county roads.
Feagley affirmed that was while the other projects, due to their locations do plan to use county roads, and have agreed to pay fees to help with maintenance on those roads due to heavy truck traffic during the construction process, the plan is to build a road off SH 11 west for Bright Arrow Solar. Road fees for other projects vary by project based on a number of factors, including investment and size of the property, and nameplate capacity — how much electricity will be generated. Those funds will be paid at the beginning of the project and first year and will go into a specially designated line item within the impacted precinct’s road and bridge fund for repair of the specific road used.
Barker asked if the Bright Arrow Solar project managers had contacted NETEX (North East Texas Rural Transportation District rail line through Northeast Texas).
“If it goes straight in they’ll have to,” Feagley replied.
Price asked what recourse the county would have if the company did use county roads to get to the solar farm after or if the right-of-way crossing agreements aren’t obtained to locate the road across the railroad. Feagley suggested potential ticketing.
Judge Robert Newsom noted that Friday Hopkins County was reported to have the lowest unemployment rate in the North East Texas region. He asked Feagley to brief the court on employment in the county, information the judge and EDC director had previously.
Feagley said there are jobs available in a variety of fields that have not been filled. The trick to lowering the unemployment rate is matching labor force to needs of employers. While the county’s unemployment rate is low, it’s still above last year’s rats of 2-3 percent.
While the EDC director has spoken with numerous employers, he cannot speak for all. However, most places have openings in a wide range of fields to be filled. BEF foods, local restaurants, My Perfect Pet, D6 Inc., welding and others.
“We want to let people know the jobs are out there, good jobs,” Newsom said.
Some of the jobs, like manufacturing jobs at D6 and BEF, create additional jobs at grocery stores and restaurants where those workers spend their money.