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Grant will help company rebuild after fire

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A grant from Grayson County will help Independence Lumber pay for repairs and put people back to work.

By Ben Bomberger, Reporter

INDEPENDENCE – Grayson supervisors have approved a performance grant agreement between the county and Independence Lumber that is designed to help the company rebuild and maintain its employment following a fire last month at the facility.
The Grayson County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the five-year grant during its regular meeting this month. The grant is to be used by Independence Lumber to fully rebuild its facilities, invest in new machinery and equipment, continue operations and “continue to employ a significant number of persons in Grayson County,” the board said.
The fire damaged two buildings and a tractor-trailer, and impacted more than 100 employees at the company. Independence Lumber laid off several workers until repairs can be completed.

The grant comes with specific goals that Independence Lumber must reach.
The grant will first be paid after January 1, 2014.
According to the agreement, Grayson will provide the company a grant each year for five years in the amount “not to exceed the difference between portions of that calendar year’s tax liability and the tax liability established by the 2012 calendar year assessed value.”
The methodology the county will use to determine the amount of the grant will be based on actual comparison of that calendar year’s machinery and tools tax bill against that of the 2012 calendar year’s machinery and tools tax bill.
An example in the agreement showed that if Independence Lumber’s tax liability is $75,000 more than that of the 2012 calendar year’s applicable tax liability, then the amount of the grant would be $75,000 if all the provisions set forth in the agreement are met.
Among those provisions are commitments in employment levels and capital investment amounts.
Between Independence Lumber Inc. and Grayson Farm and Leasing Inc. (both connected through common ownership of Randall Eller), at least 131 full-time employees must be on hand at the two businesses in Grayson County.
This baseline employment level is consistent with the number of employees to be paid during the quarter ending Dec. 31.
Additionally, the company “shall make capital investments in Grayson County that are necessary to make full repair of their facilities and replace all machinery and equipment that is necessary to fully restoring operations that would achieve the required employment commitment.”
The capital investments must be in assets subject to local tax levy and have to be at an assessed value more than the 2012 assessed value.
According to the agreement, the company “shall use the grant for either (1) site improvements to real estate located in Grayson County and improvements to the building located thereon… or (2) workforce related expenses incurred by the company to create jobs and/or sustain employment in fulfillment” of the agreement.
In order to meet the employment commitment, the company must have a collective average of at least 90 percent of 131 full-time employees (or 118 employees) for three consecutive quarters in any calendar year.
Tax filings will help validate the employment level. Employees of subsidiary companies or employees of independent contractors hired by any either company are not included in the number.
The company will be required to file a letter showing its highest assessed value of all real property acquired or leased and the assessed value of all personal property subject to taxation.
When the sum of those two items exceeds the amount of the 2012 calendar year assessed value, the company will be eligible for grant money.
If the company does not fully meet its obligations in the agreement, the grant will not be provided.
If Independence Lumber meets all other obligations but falls short on employment obligations within the allowable threshold, the amount of the grant will be prorated.
Following the meeting, County Administrator Jonathon Sweet told The Gazette that, “Job retention, creation and support is the county’s number one priority and this performance grant was our response to a need expressed by Independence Lumber to help retain the 130-plus jobs connected to their operations.”
Additionally, Sweet said that there was a substantial amount of equipment lost in the fire and that will need to be replaced.
“The assessed value on the new equipment will now be much higher and the depreciation schedule will be reset. This would have yielded increases to their cost of doing business that could have jeopardized the company’s ability to reinvestment in Grayson County,” Sweet added. “The board of supervisors took immediate action to creatively respond to the company’s stated need and resolve that concern. We trust that this grant, along with other efforts, will help secure Independence Lumber’s reinvestment and expedite their employees returning to work.”
Sweet said additional items of assistance for Independence Lumber are being worked on, but can’t be talked about at this time due to state protocol for disclosure.