Mayor still optimistic about plant
Wednesday, October 30, 2013 1:00 AM
After meeting with officials from AlphaGen last week, Philadelphia Mayor James A. Young said he remains "hopefully optimistic" about the manufacturer's plans to move into the old U. S. Motors facility, bringing up to 200 new jobs in wake of a $1 million renovation funded with grant monies.
A manufacturer of Cerarmix polymer ceramic coatings for industrial applications, infrastructure repair and clean energy applications, AlphaGen said several years ago that it would move into the 235,000-square-foot city-owned facility, bringing an initial investment here of $10 million by the company.
The renovation project was funded through a $1 million Community Development Block Grant awarded to the city.
City Attorney Robert Thomas said AlphaGen had earlier signed an agreement with the state saying it would pay back the $1 million if they had not created 200 jobs here by July 2015.
"This is a federal grant that comes through the state [Mississippi Development Authority]," Thomas said.
Three officials from AlphaGen met with the Mayor and Board of Aldermen last week in an executive session.
"I'm hopefully optimistic that we are going to move forward with this project," Young said after the meeting.
"The only thing we have to go on is they still want to come. After this delay, we hope to work through a few things in the next few months as we move forward. There are issues that we have to work through."
City Clerk James Johnson said the building has been ready for the company to move into since June or July.
"All they lack is paying the $25,000 deposit for the utilities and so far they haven't done that," he said. "They also have to get insurance on the building."
The city paid, on average, $2,000 a month in utilities for over two years on the vacant building after Taylor Machine Works and La-Z-Boy, who had been leasing the building for storage, moved out in June 2011 to make way for the renovation.
Taylor and La-Z-Boy had leased the building from the city for $160,000 annually, combined.
The utilities were turned off this past summer, Johnson said.
Young said the city has not been given a time frame from the company as to when they expect operations to begin.
"This has been a bump in the road," he said. "We are trying our best to work through it from both sides."
Alderman-at-large Willie Jackson said he was "cautiously optimistic" that the company would eventually move into the building.
"We are cautiously optimistic and hoping for the best," he said. "Time will tell.
"They did not give us a time frame."
Community Development Partnership President David Vowell was out of town and couldn't be reached for comment.
Vowell introduced AlphaGen officials Matt Merchant, Rick Saga and Sue Ann Ma to the Mayor and Board of Aldermen at the Tuesday, Oct. 22 meeting before all entered an executive session.
The renovation of the city-owned U. S. Motors facility to make way for AlphaGen included demolition of about 32,000 square feet of office area, painting the walls, roof repairs, electrical upgrades and repair/replacement of sanitary sewer service, among other things.