Company City Settle

September 17, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — The city and Hickory Hardware Inc. have reached an accord that will result in $350,000 being deposited into the general operating fund.

The payment releases Keeler Brass from the Renaissance Zone agreement the company received from the city and state in 2002. A year earlier, Keeler Brass pledged to invest $2.75 million in its plant at

955 Godfrey Ave. SW
and create 35 new jobs. The company made the investment, but wasn't able to create the jobs by the agreed-to deadline despite getting an extension from the city.

British engineering firm and Keeler Brass parent company FKI Group revealed last year it would close the Godfrey plant and move operations to Tennessee before the zone pact expired. The city said that move violated the agreement, which gave Keeler Brass nearly tax-free status through 2009.

The city said it lost $345,000 in property-tax payments over five years, from 2002 to the end of this year, due to the exemption Keeler Brass received for its plant and 12 acres of land on the southwest side. The city added that it had expected to receive $30,000 in income-tax revenue each year from the jobs that were to be added to the firm's 2001 work force of 375.

Keeler Brass posted a $625,000 performance bond with the city in 2001 to secure the Ren Zone contract. More than half of the bond — $350,000, or $10,000 for each of the 35 jobs — was to ensure that Keeler Brass added the jobs. The rest of the bond, $275,000, went toward guaranteeing that the company made its promised investment, which it did.

The $350,000 settlement is payment to the city for the jobs the firm didn't create.

"Our agreement was with Keeler Brass and this was their punishment, so to speak, for not creating jobs," said Dan Oegema of the city's economic development department.

"Basically, we're just settling our original agreement with them," he added.

The zone designation stays with the property, so almost all city and state taxes are exempt at the site through 2009. Partial tax payments begin the following year, and the property will return to the full-tax roll in 2012.

FKI reorganized its holdings last year with Keeler Brass joining four other manufacturers as Hickory Hardware, a company based in Nashville.

Hickory Hardware Vice President and Secretary Robert Miller signed the agreement with the city early last month. Commissioners then ratified it.

Keeler Brass produces decorative hardware for furniture and cabinet markets.     

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