Tax board prepares notice of default against Horizon Foods

The Economic Development Corporation of Jefferson County has given Board Chairman George Makris the authority to file a notice of default against the owners of Horizon Foods, who have defaulted on their loan to buy refrigeration equipment.

The corporation, which administers the three-eighths-cent sales tax approved by county voters for economic development, approved a $329,000 loan for Horizon in March 2012 after the company took over the former Tyson plant on West Second Avenue. Horizon shut down June 3.

Horizon was to have been given a $1,000 credit on the loan for each job it created, up to a maximum 329 new jobs over a five-year period.

Meanwhile, Lou Ann Nisbett, president and chief executive officer of the Economic Development Alliance of Jefferson County said three companies have expressed interest in taking over the plant’s operations.

The Alliance was hired to manage the activities of the corporation and to recruit businesses and industries to the county.

“We’ve got one that’s warm but there are two others also interested,” Nisbett said.

She also said there is already a workforce available if new owners decide to purchase the facility.

“The employees want to go back,” she said.

An attorney used by the board has said that if another company purchases the assets of Horizon Foods, it would be able to pick up the incentive package approved by the board for Horizon Foods.

Makris said the balance owed by Horizon is approximately $300,000, but that does not include money that has been spent for securing the building since the shutdown, and that amount will be passed along to the new owners.

The tax was approved in February 2011 and collections began July 1, 2011. Markis said those collections are “up a bit.

“When we started, we projected about $3.5 million a year and we’re right there two years in a row,” he said.

According to figures provided to the board members, first year collections totaled $3,426,571 and second year collections were $3,486,881.

In other business, Makris said the contract with the Alliance, which will be up for renewal on Oct. 1, carries an automatic renewal clause, and a fee adjustment based on the inflation rate is built into the contract.

Makris said that rate won’t be known until October but the inflation rate for September was 1.5 percent.

At his request, the board approved an amendment to the current contract which includes duties he said the Alliance was already doing, such as administrative support including preparing minutes of meetings, retaining records, arranging for the preparation of monthly financial accounting services and reports, and oversight duties such as monitoring outstanding incentive contracts and the proper calculation of credits under terms of the incentive contracts.