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Decatur's IDB OKs tax breaks for Hexcel project

By Ronnie Thomas 340-2438

The Hexcel plant is in the game for a $77 million expansion after the Decatur Industrial Development Board on Friday approved tax abatements.

The abatements include more than $208,000 a year in non-educational property taxes for 10 years, and state and Decatur sales and use taxes of about $2.1 million during construction only.

Barney Lovelace, IDB attorney, said the project would create about $256,625 a year for the 10-year period in school taxes.

He projected the Decatur city system would get $193,084 per year, the Morgan County system about $23,609. He estimated Morgan County sales and use taxes created during the construction period only at $266,250.

In other action, the board approved returning 60 acres at Lacey's Spring to SCI Technology for $1,003 after the company provided proof that all bonds were paid. To secure the bonds, SCI had leased the property from the IDB.

The new line at Hexcel to manufacture acrylic fiber for conversion to carbon fiber, primarily for the aerospace and aviation industry, will add about 25 jobs with an annual payroll of $910,000. The plant now employs 106.

Michael Johnson of Birmingham, a Hexcel consultant, said the Decatur plant is competing for the $77 million upgrade with one other facility within the corporation. He would not divulge the name, but said the plant is outside the United States, as is the Hexcel facility that the expansion would support.

The company expects to make a decision within the next three months, Johnson said, and move as quickly as possible on engineering and construction. He said the line should be in service by the second quarter of 2009.

"My role is to put through a proposal showing why Decatur should get the project," Johnson said. "Approving the abatements puts you in the running."

He also said the Decatur plant's successful expansion two years ago is something the corporate office takes notice of.

"Labor costs, logistics and shipping, training programs and utilities are elements for consideration," Johnson said. "The single biggest item is cost savings, but without the abatements, none of the other matters."

Johnson said the basic entry-level salary rate would be $13.25 an hour, $17.48 with benefits.

Hexcel was the first tenant in Mallard-Fox Creek Industrial Park in 1987. Since then it has tripled its production.

Lovelace said SCI hasn't operated its facility on Fields Road at Lacey's Spring in several years. He said five buildings are on the 40-acre tract and the remaining 20 acres are across the road.

Morgan County District 4 Commissioner Stacy George was elated to learn of the board's decision.

"It's one of the best things to happen in the county because of BRAC," he said. "BRAC people are coming in looking for places close to Huntsville to start businesses. Members of the East Morgan County Development Board are anxious."

George said Huntsville developer Dewey Brazelton is purchasing the SCI property at Lacey's Spring for about $1.3 million. Brazelton was unavailable for comment.

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