From the News Courier Story by Adam Smith January 11, 2018
For generations, thousands of acres of rich Limestone County farmland along Powell Road yielded an abundant supply of cotton and other crops. In the years to come, it will be cars, not cotton, produced there.
Officials with Toyota and Mazda joined Wednesday with officials from the state of Alabama and Limestone County to confirm whispers from the day before — a $1.6-billion automotive assembly would be built in Huntsville-annexed Limestone County.
The automakers’ joint plant will be constructed on about 2,600 acres in the city limits of Huntsville in Limestone County near the Greenbrier community. The plant will hire about 4,000 workers when it reaches full capacity. The average salary will be $50,000.
Details of what the companies will receive in incentives had not been released as of late Tuesday, though the state Department of Commerce has offered an incentives package worth about $379 million. Despite those incentives, the result could be what Limestone County Commission Chairman Mark Yarbrough referred to as having a “multigenerational impact” on North Alabama.
The main campus is anticipated to provide up to 4,000 jobs, but thousands more could be added through a mix of automotive suppliers and new homes, retail and restaurant developments necessitated by an influx of new workers. Yarbrough estimated the construction of the plant would also lead to the creation at least 2,000 new construction jobs.
“It will end up being about 20,000 jobs before it’s all said and done,” he said. “We already have interest from 35 to 40 Tier 1 and Tier 2 manufacturers who will be required to be located within a 30-mile radius of the (Toyota and Mazda) plant.”
Limestone County won’t ante up cash for the deal, but the commission could approve a 20-year tax abatement agreement during its next scheduled meeting at 10 a.m. Tuesday. That abatement would include property taxes and one of the 1-cent statutory sales taxes that provides revenue to local school systems. A 1-cent constitutional sales tax that funds Athens City Schools and Limestone County Schools won’t be abated. Yarbrough said sales tax related to the construction of the plant would provide untold millions to the school systems over the next few years.
Once the 20-year abatement expires, Limestone County stands to gain $6 million to $7 million each year in ad valorem taxes from the plant.
Attraction to Limestone
As with most industrial projects, Yarbrough and other officials are quick to point out how luring projects are as much about numerous entities working together toward a common goal, though luck can be just as important as incentives.
Having a shovel-ready site — or at least the prospect of one — was likely another consideration for Toyota and Mazda. There’s a 1,500-acre Tennessee Valley Authority-certified megasite off Powell Road, but the plant isn’t expected to be located squarely on that property. The remaining farmland the plant will be built on needed additional infrastructure improvements.
At a Huntsville City Council meeting set for 6 p.m. tonight, the council will learn more about a seventh tax increment financing district, or TIF, that would fund those improvements. The TIF allows Huntsville to issue bonds and then repay those bonds through property tax revenue collected off increased property values.
When asked if Limestone County was truly ready for such a large industrial endeavor and all that could follow, Yarbrough’s response was, “I hope so.”
“There are parts of me that miss the old days,” he said. “But, as I’ve said many times, if we quit growing, we start dying.”
Luck and language
At Wednesday’s announcement, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle referred to Yarbrough as his “lucky rabbit’s foot.”
“We’ve not lost one yet with Mark,” Battle said.
Yarbrough, in turn, referred to Battle as the project’s “quarterback” and said it couldn’t have happened without him. He also thanked the county’s four commissioners — Stanley Hill, Steve Turner, Jason Black and Ben Harrison — who were all in attendance at Wednesday’s announcement.
Yarbrough and the commissioners received new business cards to present to the Japanese automakers. Their names and information are printed in English on one side and Japanese on the other.
Read the entire story HERE.
Sit down and visit with Chairman Mark Yarbrough and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle about the Toyota-Mazda announcement HERE.