MUNCIE – Because it failed to create hundreds of jobs as promised, an Italian wind turbine maker is paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in penalties to Delaware County.
With great fanfare, state and local officials met on the far western edge of Delaware County in October 2008 and announced a bold new “green energy” initiative: Italian gearbox maker Brevini would create 450 jobs at spin-off company Brevini Wind, making turbines for windmills in a Park One facility.
As most Delaware County residents know, that didn’t happen. The national recession and stalled-out wind industry meant the Brevini companies – which relocated their U.S. offices here from Illinois —never employed more than about 60 workers.
The company is now paying the price for that job-creation failure: On Tuesday, the county commissioners and Brevini acknowledged to The Star Press that the company will pay the county $375,000 for failing to meet job-creation goals of hiring 200 workers by the end of 2014.
And the company could pay another $800,000 if it fails to create the equivalency of 410 full-time-jobs by Dec. 31, 2016.
County officials – working through Brad Bookout of the Delaware County Redevelopment Commission – have been negotiating with Brevini for months to ensure the company complied with the repayment terms in its contract.
“I was aware there would be a payment,” county council member Mike Jones told The Star Press on Tuesday. “Jobs would have been preferable, but I’m glad the redevelopment commission negotiated that (payment).”
County Commissioner Shannon Henry – who noted the original Brevini announcement and agreement “started way, way back before me” – said he was glad the company had invested locally but also glad the payment had been arranged.
“I think it’s important to stick to the agreement,” Henry said. “A penalty of $375,000 is a lot of money, but we’ve invested a lot of money.”
The payment – to be made toward county-issued bonds of $2.2 million – represents an acknowledgment of the failure of the project to this point. At various times over the past six years, Brevini officials reassured county officials that the company could retool as an industrial gearbox maker and create jobs.
That optimistic attitude continues. A statement issued to The Star Press on Tuesday ends with the sentence, “It is undeniable that Brevini is well positioned for future growth in Delaware County.”
The county and the company point out that Brevini’s 50-plus employees have a $3 million annual payroll and that the company invested $10 million in real estate – including the construction of one of Brevini’s two buildings in Park One – and $26 million in equipment. The company paid $300,000 in property taxes in 2014, the county said.
But the county’s losses have been and include a mile-long, $5-million rail spur, completed in early 2014, to handle huge gearboxes that would have been too large to move by truck. It’s possible the rail spur will never be used.
“The recession caught them at a bad time,” Henry said Tuesday. “I hate it for them, but I hope they continue to move forward and hopefully flourish and we get job creation out there and get people working here in Delaware County.”
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