A Greenwood company has outgrown its current location and will move into a vacant warehouse that at one time was supposed to house a biotech firm that eventually failed.
CTW Electric plans to buy and move from its current building in Greenwood to the short-lived former headquarters of an insulin manufacturer, Elona Biotechnologies, at 749 Commerce Parkway in the Precedent South Business Park. The building has been vacant since it was purchased in an auction in 2013 when Elona’s assets were liquidated.
In 1977, CTW Electric was started by Greenwood resident Ruben Fiorenza, working out of the back of a van. Now, the wholesale distributor of electrical equipment for truck builders is moving from its home of 20 years in a 32,000-square-foot building at 601 Sayre Court, next to the Greenwood Municipal Airport. CTW has 16 employees in Greenwood and 16 employees who work in sales in 10 states.
The company, which plans to be moved in by Dec. 31, has asked the city of Greenwood for a 10-year tax break. If approved, the company wouldn’t pay any property taxes in the first year at the new building. Property taxes would be phased in throughout a decade.
The Greenwood Redevelopment Commission approved a recommendation to the city council to approve the 10-year tax break. City council members would need to approve the tax break. Redevelopment commission members said they supported CTW Electric’s request because of the company’s history in Greenwood and because of the city’s history with the former Elona building.
“We’re just pleased that somebody is buying that building. Having someone in that building is very refreshing,” redevelopment commission president Mike Tapp said. “CTW is a local, long-standing company. We felt comfortable with the traditional, 10-year abatement. It’s the least we could do.”
CTW is running out of space at its current location. And based on the company’s growth, Fiorenza expects to double his operations during the next 10 years. A tax break would help with the company’s move to the vacant Elona building and allow him to hire more employees, he said.
Over the next 10 years, CTW plans to add 40 employees, starting with four to six new workers during the first year in the building. The 40 jobs will be warehouse and distribution focused and pay about $15 an hour, Fiorenza said.
As CTW began outgrowing its current location, Fiorenza started looking into a new facility but first contacted Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers to discuss getting assistance from the city where his company has been for almost 40 years.
“People told me to look at Fishers, but I didn’t want to go outside of the city. We love Greenwood. I like the people, the environment and the convenience,” Fiorenza said. “But I told the mayor, new businesses come into this city, and it seems like they get all the help, while older businesses like us that have been here for decades are left out.”
Fiorenza was encouraged to look into vacant buildings as a new location for his business if he wanted a tax break from the city, Fiorenza said. The cost to purchase the former Elona Building was not disclosed. In 2013, the building sold for $1.55 million to local businessman Dennis Curlee at auction.
In 2010, the city gave $6.5 million to Elona for land and building expenses and offered a $500,000 cash grant paid out of tax-increment financing, or TIF, districts. The city also gave a $1.5 million no-interest, forgivable loan through the redevelopment commission. Despite getting some of the money invested back through the auction, the city’s total loss of taxpayer dollars was close to $9 million.
“Repurposing that building became a problem because it was so specific to Elona’s needs. But now that we have someone who wants that building, we can get some return on our investment, and it’s even better that it’s a local guy,” city council member Mike Campbell said.
City council member Bruce Armstrong said he is disappointed that the building will be used for warehouse and distribution after the city has placed a focus on having more manufacturing or industrial jobs. Because Elona was going to use the building for manufacturing insulin, it would have been an ideal location for another drug-based or electrical manufacturing company, Armstrong said.
The $15-an-hour wage for the jobs that CTW plans to add at its new location is also below the county average. Rather than the 40 jobs at $15 an hour, Armstrong would like to see 25 jobs that pay a higher wage.
The building is located in one of Greenwood’s TIF districts, where the city collects tax dollars for future projects, such as improvements to roads. And with the company receiving a tax break, it would be several years before the city would begin to collect that tax money on the building. Giving a tax break to a building in a TIF district isn’t appropriate, Armstrong said.
“We’ve lost the investment on that building. We lost a substantial amount of money and just getting someone in that building after we sold it at a loss, in my mind, it doesn’t mean it makes everything fine,” Armstrong said. “We need to use tax breaks for companies that are going to improve wages in the city and county. I’m not enthused about this. Losing the high-tech manufacturing ability of that building is upsetting.”
Established: Greenwood, 1977
Owner: Ruben Fiorenza
How many employees: 16 in Greenwood and 16 sales representatives working in 10 states.
Specializes: Electrical fasteners, wiring and safety products such as lighting for trucks. The company is a wholesale distributor of those types of products made by name brands such as 3M and Delphi.