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BAE move to shield 1,100 city jobs

Local, state incentives aid $39 million plant

British defense contractor BAE Systems plans a new $39 million manufacturing plant near Fort Wayne International Airport, keeping 1,100 jobs in Fort Wayne.

BAE Systems officials won’t comment on the news because the lease with developer Scannell Properties is being negotiated. On Monday, though, officials from BAE and Greater Fort Wayne Inc. requested and received $4.5 million in incentives from two governmental bodies.

The move to a 275,000-square-foot plant on 68 acres at Ardmore Avenue and Airport Expressway will keep the company and its 1,100 high-paying jobs in Fort Wayne. The company has been looking for a new location and there were fears this fall that the firm was looking at land in Van Wert and Paulding, Ohio.

Greater Fort Wayne Inc.’s Ashley Steenman presented the project to the Allen County-Fort Wayne Capital Improvement Board on Monday morning, requesting $2.5 million toward the incentive package. Monday afternoon, officials were at the Fort Wayne Redevelopment Commission asking for $2 million more. Both requests were approved unanimously.

Steenman said the deal has been in the works for about 18 months.

“It’s not just the 1,100 jobs, but the secondary effect of those and the effect of that on the community,” said John Urbahns, the city’s director of community development. “The multiplier effect of high-paying jobs like that is very valuable.”

Greg Leatherman, executive director of the Redevelopment Commission, said his agency’s $2 million will come from the airport tax increment finance district covering the area. TIF districts take the new property taxes generated by development within their borders to pay for infrastructure within that district, such as the streets or sewers that made the development possible. That TIF has about $4 million available.

Because the law requires TIF money to be used for capital items and because the property will be leased, the incentives will have to be slightly different than usual, Leatherman said, because the capital items the Redevelopment Commission usually funds – such as street improvements – benefit the property owner, and officials want to benefit BAE directly. Leatherman said the incentives will likely be structured like they were for SIRVA in 2004, which had local government finance equipment for the relocation and logistics company.

“(Traditional incentives) wouldn’t benefit BAE in the way we need to keep them here,” he said.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. will also offer incentives, though those have yet to be spelled out publicly. Capital Improvements Board President Nancy Jordan said the state’s involvement shows how important the project is to the region.

BAE Systems spokesman Jeff Benzing would not confirm the location, but said the company’s move from its current location at 2000 Taylor St. is expected to occur in the third quarter of 2015. BAE currently leases space from General Electric.

“BAE Systems is working to finalize a lease agreement with our developer and is concurrently engaging with economic development agencies to keep the project on schedule,” Benzing said.

Steenman said officials have been working on the deal for about 18 months. Leatherman said the multiagency effort was put together to ensure a Plan B was available if BAE was unable to extend the lease on its current location.

“Once you pack up a company like that on a truck, it’s as easy to take it across town as it is across the country once it’s loaded up,” Leatherman said.

The next step, officials said, is to identify the capital equipment BAE needs so a written pact can be drawn up. Leatherman said that will include clawback provisions to refund the investments if the job goals are not met.