Fort Smith Board approves bonds for Glatfelter, plan for additional city office space

by Aric Mitchell ([email protected]) 226 views 

The Fort Smith Board of Directors authorized industrial revenue bonds in the amount of $75 million to pave the way for Glatfelter Advanced Materials in its bid to occupy the manufacturing facility at 8201 Chad Colley Blvd., formerly known as Mitsubishi’s wind turbine plant.

The authorization came by way of a 6-0 vote with City Director Tracy Pennartz absent from Tuesday night’s (April 5) meeting. The Board previously approved use of the bonds, but this vote was to approve legal documents stipulating terms of the bond plan.

Debt service payments on the bonds will be the sole responsibility of Glatfelter, which will benefit from paying the equivalent of 35% of normal property taxes for a 15-year period. The company will hire 83 new full-time employees with an average annual wage of $25 per hour over the next three years.

A previous company press release stated that Glatfelter will open its plant late next year, and expects to spend up to $45 million in 2016, with the remainder in 2017. The first shipments from the plant are expected in the first quarter of 2018. Glatfelter will use the plant to manufacture fibrous paper materials like the kind used in wet wipes.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries announced in October 2009 that it would built the $100 million, 200,000-square foot wind-turbine manufacturing plant on 90 acres at Fort Chaffee. The plant was expected to employ up to 400 once fully operational, and Mitsubishi officials initially said full production of nacelles for the 2.4MW wind turbine and the 400 jobs could be in place within the first quarter of 2012.

In 2010, Fort Smith offered close to $1.8 million in incentives and infrastructure support to facilitate the operation. However, in December 2009, it was learned legal and trade disputes between Mitsubishi and GE would delay the opening of the plant. The GE legal dispute, concerns about the long-term availability of a federal tax credit, and a slowing economy caused the company to idle the plant before production ever began. The legal dispute was eventually resolved, but the lack of federal production credits and other market factors curtailed production across the industry sector.

In April 2012, Mitsubishi announced it would mothball the Fort Smith plant. At the time, company officials said they would post a fiscal year 2011 loss of about $240 million (20 billion yen) for the “write-down of wind-turbine inventory and related measures.” The unused 200,000-square-foot Mitsubishi facility was put up for sale in early 2015. Glatfelter announced its acquisition of the plant on March 1, 2016.

Also Tuesday night, City Directors Keith Lau and George Catsavis voted against a request to adjust MAHG Architecture’s fees by close to $10,000 regarding design and renovation to the Library Annex Building for use as office space. Lau said he could not vote to add items that should have been included in MAHG’s initial 10.5% design fee (i.e. adding more energy efficient lighting to replace 260 fluorescent lights as well as handicap-accessible bathrooms on the building’s first floor).

The proposed amendment bumped the overall fee from $98,980 to $108,936.79. It ultimately passed with Directors Andre Good, Don Hutchings, Mike Lorenz, and Kevin Settle, voting to approve.