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The Journal Gazette

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Friday, November 16, 2018 1:00 am

County OKs tax breaks for Sweetwater

DAVE GONG | The Journal Gazette

Several members of the Allen County Council on Thursday praised Sweetwater Sound founder Chuck Surack's success and community involvement before voting unanimously in favor of just over $2 million in property tax breaks for the company's major expansion project. 

According to documents submitted to both the Fort Wayne City and Allen County councils, the $83 million expansion expects to add 1,009 full-time jobs for a total annual payroll of about $56 million. The company is able to compete with online retailer Amazon and is “a couple years away from being a billion-dollar company,” Surack told the council. The council approved a 10-year tax phase-in for the company's development.

The Fort Wayne City Council is expected to consider a $12.5 million, 10-year personal and real property tax abatement request for the same project at its Nov. 27 meeting.

“Even as our numbers get bigger we continue to grow at a 20 to 25 percent a year growth rate, which is pretty amazing,” Surack said, noting that January will mark 40 years since he started his business out of the back of a Volkswagen bus. “I just really appreciate that the community has been so supportive through the years.” 

About half of Sweetwater's staff relocated to northeast Indiana from elsewhere, Surack said.

“We're one of the only places where you can actually have a career, make real income and buy a home and all that sort of stuff,” Surack said. “This region has become everything we're all working on. This quality of place is absolutely resonating.”

Sweetwater's expansion includes a new 350,000-square-foot warehouse and a 35,000- square-foot conference center that can seat 1,000 people at its facility on U.S. 30 near Kroemer Road. The company's current warehouse will be renovated, as well. Construction will be done in December 2022. 

“A lot of people look at where you are right now and go 'oh this happened yesterday,' but you've invested 40 years of time and energy and that's awesome,” Councilwoman Sharon Tucker said. 

Councilmen Tom Harris, Larry Brown and Joel Benz shared similar sentiments. Brown specifically lauded Sweetwater's work with schools and children to expose them to music.

“I'm lucky to have a grandson who takes lessons at Sweetwater and the opportunities that they provide at a very reasonable cost is to be commended,” Brown said.