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Major retail distribution center moving forward as Lordstown GM plant remains uncertain

Posted at 10:00 PM, Dec 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-28 22:00:07-05

LORDSTOWN, Ohio — As the future of the Lordstown GM plant remains shrouded in uncertainty, the plan to bring in another major corporation to the village moves another step closer. At a special year-end session Friday night, the village council approved changes to a tax abatement agreement between the county and TJX Homegoods, the parent company of retail giant TJ Maxx.

The linchpin of the financial incentive package is a 75% abatement of the increase in property taxes and tangible personal property taxes over a 10 year period. Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill said the total abatement amounts to roughly $1.3 million. In return, the retailer will build a 1.2 million square foot distribution facility in the shadow of the Lordstown GM plant, which is expected to create 1000 permanent full-time jobs. The total gross salaries of those new positions is expected to exceed $27 million annually, according to the abatement agreement.

The new positions will be created over a period of three years with 600 jobs created by year one, 200 additional jobs by year two and 200 additional new jobs by year three, which is expected to be 2024.

“Our intentions, our desire, our approach will be to beat these dates,” said Mark Walker, the vice president of real estate acquisitions for TJX Homegoods.

At Friday’s special meeting, the council mulled over and eventually approved minor changes to the abatement agreement. Those changes include more firm dates on when construction is expected to be complete as well as a provision that would give the retailer 90 days to regain compliance in the event that a large number of employees resign to take positions at another major employer in Lordstown like General Motors.

“If major manufacturing restarts operations and we have 10 percent of the work force resign and go across the street, down the street, elsewhere, and we fall below the 1000 jobs we have a period of 90 days to say we’re going to fix that,” Allen said. “We are a company that under promises, over performs and over delivers. This is simply some leeway we needed to be a little more comfortable that we [wouldn’t] disappoint.”

The entire project has been in the works for the better part of two years when the retailer sought proposals across eight states in the Northeast. Through its research and due diligence, the retailer settled on a sprawling chunk of land on the other side of the interstate from General Motors. The project was nearly derailed by a bitter and drawn out rezoning battle.

“It seems like Northeast Ohio is the first to go down and the last to come up. I really appreciate TJX Homegoods hanging in here through thick and thin because this has been quite the ordeal,” said Mayor Hill said. “Its very important to not only the village but the whole area. You know were still up in the air with General Motors. I’m still optimistic on that.”

David Green, the president of UAW Local 1112, said that the union continues its grassroots campaign to convince GM to re-allocate the Lordstown plant. The campaign has culminated in mass letter-writing endeavors and other community events. However, Green said he doesn’t expect a major announcement coming from General Motors for the next few months.

According to a WARN notice filed with the state, GM plans on laying off more than 1600 employees at the Lordstown plant beginning in March. Ironically, that’s when TJX plans to begin construction on its new plant.

The new TJX distribution facility will not be a ‘white knight’ but Mayor Hill believes it’s the next best thing.

“Some people [ask], ‘can that take the place of General Motors?’ No. It would be real tough to find something to take the place of General Motors,” Mayor Hill said. “But I’m hoping [GM doesn’t] go away.”