SIDNEY — The Sidney City Council Chambers was full with standing room only Monday night due to the number of concerned residents who reside near the site of a potential new manufacturing plant that is considering developing on farm land for sale on west of Fair Road, south of Millcreek Road and east of Kuther Road.
City Council was introduced to an ordinance Monday to grant a municipal income tax job creation tax credit to SEMCORP Manufacturing USA LLC and authorize City Manager Andrew Bowsher to enter into an agreement pertaining to the job creation tax credit.
Finance Officer Renee DuLaney explained SEMCORP intends to construct a new, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility, estimated to be approximately 850,000-square-feet, to produce lithium-ion battery separator film and related products.
Bowsher clarified this plant will not produce or possess lithium, but rather a film that will go inside of the battery product. He also said the facility is very clean and encouraged those who are concerned or interested in the produced product to visit the business’ website or social media pages to learn more about the it and how it is produced.
SEMCORP intends to recruit and develop an excellent, dedicated and trained workforce, DuLaney said when introducing the ordinance. The city of Sidney is in competition with Texas for the business to determine where it will call its next facility home. SEMCORP has not made its final decision yet about where it will be located.
The business will create no less than 1,199 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs, and no less than $73 million of Sidney taxable wages, DuLaney said. SEMCORP will agree to maintain significant operations, jobs, and payroll at the project location for at least twice the number of years of the tax credit. Failure by SEMCORP to abide by the agreed upon job and payroll creation figures may require reimbursement to the city of Sidney of said tax credits.
In pursuing this agreement, SEMCORP plans to expand the city’s tax base and create jobs, DuLaney said. The city of Sidney would provide a job creation nonrefundable annual tax credit for a 10-year-term. This credit, she said, is calculated on 75% of the new employees Sidney income taxes withheld up to a maximum annual credit of $1.5 million, for tax years 2026 through 2035 for the company’s net profit return.
Numerous members of the public spoke out of the nearly 50 people in attendance at Monday’s meeting. When asked for clarity of the facility location, Bowsher said it will be located upon the approximately 260-acre-plot of land, owned by the Charley Cole family, to the southwest of the Love’s Travel Stop on Fair Road. The main access road will be off Fair Road, an alternate exit for cars and employees only will be on Kuther Road.
“Are all of us stuck out there with that going to get a tax reduction?” asked West Millcreek Road resident Ethyl Beam, who complained about current trucking traffic and also asked if there was consideration for neighbors about the lithium product to be made there. She said she heard another facility elsewhere blew up because of the lithium at the plant.
Bowsher said the company will not have any lithium at the plant in Sidney, it will just produce film separators. “The truck assess is on Fair Road,” he said, “to have access off of I-75. They will be building their section south of the farm pond (on the land) as part of phase I for this project. This is a job creation tax credit for their corporate tax structure. It has nothing to do with the wages of the employees that will be taxed out there, and this specific piece of legislation has nothing to do with property taxes.”
Jeff Stangel, of Millcreek Road, then stood and asked why an existing local company, RCI, which was planning to move to India wasn’t given some kind of tax incentive to stay in Sidney. Bowsher told him he was fairly certain that company was being purchased to stay in Sidney and are expanding their jobs. Stangel further asked why citizens were not told that or anything about this current company coming in, debated why SEMCORP would be allowed to move into a residential area, and what will happen after phase I is completed. “We are kind of getting kicked in the teeth, everybody out there. What is going to happen? … Some of these people had no idea this was even going to go in there.”
Bowsher reiterated that nearly 1,200 jobs will be added for phase I, and the same property will be utilized for phase II, of which they have not reached that level of negotiations. Mayor Mardie Milligan added, when pushed by others about more information about phase II, that they city doesn’t know what phase II will look like yet, as is common with many of the businesses in town. She said often business tell the city what they are doing next as they are able to.
Others expressed concern about the environmental impact, further neighboring water issues, taking jobs away from or helping other existing businesses in town, and the fact that SEMCORP is a Chinese-owned company.
“That site has actually been identified in the JobsOhio as a shovel-ready site for quite sometime, am I right?” Milligan posed to Jim Hill, executive director of the Sidney-Shelby Economic Development Partnership, seated in the crowd, who shook his head in agreement. “And I am seeing shaking heads, because I am not the expert. So, it has always been identified as an area of manufacturing and development for that type of thing, and has been in that genre for a long time. It is in the opinion of the city of Sidney and council and staff that this is a good thing for the community. It will bring in good paying jobs. It will bring in a good company. And again, we are in competition, and so nothing is done, yet, but it is our hope that it would be a good site for some manufacturing company, and this is the one that has come forward.”
“The EPA has been involved from the very beginning for the not only the site,” Bowsher said, “but it is very vigorous (for what) they have to go through with the various regulations and challenges that they have to meet. And I want to be very clear, they are not having lithium inside of the factory itself, it’s just a film substance they are manufacturing. It’s a very clean room type of environment, and I highly encourage you to go on social media and their website to go and take a look at it. It’s a very unique and interesting type of thing; it’s very hi-tech. It’s not what I think you are envisioning, when you think about a large battery manufacture that could be potential causing some kind of ground fields on the site.”
Among questions about concern with furthering issues of water coming onto his connected property to the land in question, J. R. Edwards, of Schenk Road, asked for a guarantee on the record it won’t cause him even more problems. He said he has experienced problem for the “last 20 years” with water coming down from that property through his and on to the river. He also expressed concern with SEMCORP taking away jobs from his business.
“And other question is, why, why, why China? They have already moved bombs and stuff closer to us so they can hit us, so they are not our friends,” Edwards said, which drew a round of applause from the gathered crowd. “Nobody has got enough plans here to make a judgement. Nobody here knows anything, and you are going to let it go through, I know you are. … Think of your grandchildren and great-grandchildren when you have to explain you approved this to a company from China.”
Several others present echoed Edwards disgust with SEMCORP being a Chinese company the city is considering allowing to develop in Sidney.
Hill spoke at one point, when asked if they had looked into another Chinese-owned business in the Dayton area to see what the reaction was to the business as about how it affected the neighbors. He said he had looked it and has heard positive feedback, that they have been a very good neighbor.
Others said this move would only affect the city and bring in tax dollars. Hill, Bowsher and Milligan said it will also benefit the county, city schools and area townships. When pressed for specific details about how much Washington Township is deemed to gain, city officials could not give any specifics, noting they are not that far into the deal yet to provide that information.
After several people expressed dissatisfaction and rebuke for allowing the development to go further, Milligan closed the comments and said the issue will return on April 25 to City Council for further consideration, and encouraged those with further questions or concerns to return at that date.