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Local expansions offer hope for economic normalcy

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With the hope of bringing jobs to Franklin, the mayor took a chance and sent letters to firearms makers on the East Coast.

The letters asked the companies to consider relocating to Franklin because of anti-gun legislation in their states. Those efforts are not typically what Mayor Joe McGuinness does and didn’t bring new companies here. He often works with local companies, such as through infrastructure projects, to try to get them to expand here.

Last year, Mitsubushi Heavy Industries Climate Control began building a 10,000-square-foot addition to its Franklin facility and purchased about $7.3 million in new equipment, and then later in the year decided to add 24,000 square feet more to the project. That shows economic development is happening in Johnson County, he said.

Business expansions, such as Mitsubishi’s, or moves to the area happen because of work the cities are doing, particularly by being business-friendly by improving city infrastructure and ensuring that local utilities are able to provide service to businesses, he said.

The city also offers incentives or tax breaks based on how many jobs the company plans to create, how much the jobs will pay and whether the company is a startup or a well-established business, McGuinness said. For example, the city offered Mitsubishi nearly $800,000 in local tax breaks for its projects.

“We need to create an environment that is conducive to business. It’s our job to create the environment that is enticing to businesses coming to Franklin,” McGuinness said.

That work is beginning to pay off as the economy recovers, especially in Franklin, said Cheryl Morphew, president and chief executive officer of Johnson County Development Corp.

Economic factors

Johnson County Development Corp., a nonprofit economic development agency, worked with businesses interested in buying or renting land and buildings in Johnson County in 2013. Companies are getting more confident about expanding as the economy gets stronger. Here are year-over-year comparisons of the number of site visits and requests for information:

Property showings and related


2013: 15

2012: 7

Calls and emails from businesses:

2013: 111

2012: 105

Incentive offers made in 2013:

Franklin: 12 to 15

Greenwood: 10

Companies that have been saving money and were reluctant to build or expand after the recession are increasingly willing to buy land, build or move into larger buildings, she said.

More than twice as many companies came to the county to look at properties in 2013 than in 2012, and most of them went to Franklin, she said.

Many of the businesses have gone to Franklin because of the city’s available shovel-ready land and the shell building, an empty facility built for manufacturing, Morphew said. Land that is state-certified as shovel-ready is available for developers to get their city permits expedited and quickly begin construction.

Greenwood also had an uptick in interest from businesses wanting to expand or move to the city. The city averaged about one contact per week in 2013 by phone call or email from companies interested in moving to or expanding in Greenwood, or roughly twice as many as the year before, Mayor Mark Myers said.

“I think overall that people have more confidence, and that continues to increase every year,” Morphew said. “2013 was definitely a better year than 2012 from a success standpoint. It continues to get better every year.”

The increase in interest from businesses showed in the number of tax abatements and other incentives the cities offered. Franklin offered about a dozen incentives, up by two or three from 2012, McGuinness said. The city has three incentive letters out just to companies interested in the shell building, he said.

Greenwood offered about 10 companies incentives, including tax breaks and cash, to entice the businesses to move to or grow in the city last year — an increase from about six offers in 2012, Myers said. He said he made three of the offers in December.

City officials consider whether to make incentive offers based on whether they believe a company has good business and financial plans and will fit the city, Myers said.

Morphew would not say how many businesses committed to expanding in or moving to the county. The mayors also declined to discuss pending projects. But about half the successful deals were with existing local businesses, and half were with companies new to the county, Morphew said. Announcements about the successes will come later this year, she said.

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