The Fort Smith Board of Directors on Tuesday (Oct. 4) approved two ordinances regarding $138 million in Industrial Revenue Bonds related to the new Owens Corning facility under construction.
The first authorized the issuance of up to $115 million in Industrial Development Revenue Bonds on behalf of Owens Corning Composite Materials, LLC, including the construction of a manufacturing facility together with related machinery, equipment and other personal property, to be located at 5401 Excelsior Drive (the Manufacturing Project).
The second authorized the issuance of $23 million in Industrial Development Revenue Bonds on behalf of FM Ft. Smith, LLC for the purpose of financing new manufacturing and warehouse facilities for use by Owens Corning Composite Materials, LLC., specifically a 420,000-square-foot warehouse at 5101 Excelsior Drive (the Warehouse Project).
Director Kevin Settle said that the revenue bonds were a part of the city’s toolbox to bring and retain business in Fort Smith.
“This is a $138 million investment in our city,” Settle said. “There isn’t a lot that we can do, but this is one thing we can do to keep this company here for the next 20-30 years.”
Toledo, Ohio-based Owens Corning began building a new 550,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Fort Smith in 2021. The new facility will replace the existing plant the company built in 1984. The estimated $115 million project is expected to add five jobs with an approximate annual salary of $85,000 per year.
Ed Ford, plant leader for Owens Corning in Fort Smith, said the new facility is expected to be complete and operational by late 2023 or early 2024. At that time, the existing plant will be “retired.” Owens Corning’s existing Fort Smith plant – located near the Gerdau (MacSteel) plant – began production in 1984 and produces mat for roofing shingles and other nonwoven products.
The primary advantage of industrial revenue bonds is reduced property taxes on the project, a memo on the ordinances said.
“Pursuant to the Payment in-Lieu-of Taxes (PILOT) Agreement (also authorized by the proposed ordinances), the company will pay the equivalent of 40% of the normal property taxes for a period of ten (10) years, an overall savings of over $5.4 million in property taxes, including both projects,” the memo said. “This combined $138 million investment supports the Board’s stated priorities and the Economic Development objectives of the city’s Comprehensive Plan related to fostering economic development and job creation in Fort Smith.”
The board approved an ordinance in June 2021 allowing rezoning to a planned zoning district (PZD) on property recently annexed into the city that will allow for the expansion of Owens Corning in Fort Smith. The PZD was for 74.44 acres, located at 5520 Planters Road and 9015 Highway 45, east of Highway 45 and south of Planters Road, and allowed for the southern expansion of Owens Planning with permitted land uses.
On May 18, 2021, the board agreed to annex 111.16 acres of property located south of Planters Road and east of Arkansas Highway 45. Owens Corning Composite Materials, LLC, FM Ft. Smith, LLC, and Stephens Land Holdings, LLC, owners of the said property, requested the annexation.