Economic Development, Government, and Manufacturing

Manufacturers going before commission

Both are planning to make equipment purchases and create new jobs.

September 27, 2013
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Grand Rapids city commissioners will hear from two manufacturers next week that are planning to expand their services and are asking for industrial tax exemptions.

One of the companies plans to add more than 100 new jobs from its investment. Firstronic will come before the commission with two requests. The first will be to amend an exemption the commission awarded the company two years ago. The second will be to request a new abatement.

In 2011, Firstronic was awarded an eight-year tax break for an investment of $252,500 in new machinery and equipment. But two years later, the firm has far exceeded its initial investment, spending more than $1.1 million on machinery and equipment for its plant at 1655 Michigan St. NE.

Firstronic had said it would add up to 10 new jobs based on its original investment figure, but actually hired 13 permanent full-time workers and raised its total work force to 54 employees. The company is asking commissioners to amend the exemption to reflect its total spending and the jobs Firstronic has created from that investment.

Firstronic is also asking commissioners for a new eight-year tax abatement. This time the company is planning to invest $2.2 million into new machinery and equipment by the end of 2015 and $25,000 into upgrades to its plant. Company executives told the city this investment will result in Firstronic hiring 115 new employees, more than twice the number of its current work force.

“Firstronic has also applied for financial assistance through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Business Development Program. This exemption would serve as the match for the state’s investment,” said City Economic Development Director Kara Wood.

An exemption would save the company about $11,000 annually in state and local taxes for eight years.

Firstronic provides advanced electronics manufacturing services primarily for the automotive, medical and industrial sectors.

Swift Printing Co. also is asking for an eight-year tax abatement. The family-owned and -operated company was started by Walt Gutowski Sr. in 1950 and is currently operated by Walt Gutowski Jr., a city commissioner representing the First Ward.

The Gutowskis are planning to invest $400,000 by the end of this year into new equipment, software and peripherals to increase production, improve customer service and expand the firm’s range of services. Commissioner Gutowski left the room when the matter was discussed.

“Swift has been recognized for many years as a leader in print technology and services, offering a complete range of products from business cards and letterheads to postcards and brochures,” said Wood. “Their plans are to invest $400,000 by the end of the calendar year.”

Swift Printing at 404 Bridge St. NW employs nine and will add another employee as part of its investment. An exemption would save the firm about $2,000 a year in state and local taxes.

Commissioners will hold the public hearings Tuesday evening, Oct. 8.

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