Junction City commissioners approved a request to release a grant to a local tire manufacturing company during Tuesday night’s meeting.
City officials had previously entered into a development agreement with Camso Manufacturing USA, which is in the process of establishing a plant in Junction City. One condition of the grant discussed Tuesday night mandated the company to employ at least 20 full-time workers for at least 30 days prior to June 30. The city would then supply the tire producer with a $187,500 grant. City officials also entered into an agreement with Junction City First — which contributed part of the funding for the incentive package — that would provide $200,000 to the city for additional funds for Camso. Junction City First has already provided $100,000, and agreed to release another $100,000 with approval from the city commission.
But there was some concern from Camso’s human resources director about whether the agreement had been fulfilled, according to Mickey Fornaro-Dean, director of the Junction City Area Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Development Commission. Fornaro-Dean said she was contacted by Camso’s human resources director a couple weeks ago.
“They were concerned about the agreement because they were very interested in making sure they follow the letter of their agreement,” Fornaro-Dean said.
The company’s concern was due to its employee count. It had 21 employees just shy of the 30-day period, but one failed a random drug test, and another decided to resign, Fornaro-Dean said.
“The HR director called and said they had someone they were about to hire, and will be back in the spirit of the agreement,” Fornaro-Dean said. “We’d like to keep moving forward.”
City Manager Allen Dinkel recommended releasing the money to Camso.
“I concur with Mickey that I think they’re making the efforts,” Dinkel said. “They’re doing some production now.”
Fornaro-Dean then updated commissioners on production progress at the plant. There is currently one piece of equipment in the plant, which is operating and making treads. It runs about eight to 10 rolls per week, she said.
“They are also in the process of getting more equipment in, and more set-up done in the manufacturing facility,” Fornaro-Dean said. “Obviously, that is their first concern is to get themselves ready to manufacture product because that’s what they need to do for their suppliers.”
Camso currently employs 20 workers, and is still hiring, Fornaro-Dean said. The front of the plant will be redone in November or December, but officials are still unsure of what the company’s title on the front of the building will be, since it was recently bought by Michelin.
“They want to keep the Camso name because that is a very well-known product in the market,” Fornaro-Dean said. “But they also are going to have a Michelin name put on it.”
Mayor Pat Landes also said he believed Camso is working to try and meet its obligation.
“I think they definitely met the spirit of the agreement,” Landes said. “A couple things happened right toward the deadline, but they’ve been able to find some good people. So, I’m fine with it. It’s a great asset for our community. I think it’s only going to get better.”
Commissioners voted to release $287,500 to Camso, with the acknowledgement that $100,000 will be received from Junction City First. Camso could qualify for additional grant funds if it employs 40 workers by Dec. 31, 2020.