GOSHEN — The town of Middlebury could have several new high-paying jobs headed its way following a meeting of the Elkhart County Council Saturday morning.

During the meeting, council members granted initial approval of a five-year tax phase-in request by the company Jomar Machining & Fabricating, a fabricator of steel and aluminum machinery and parts located at 13393 C.R. 22, Middlebury. A tax phase-in is a partial or temporary exemption of a company from having to pay property taxes with the express purpose of stimulating economic development.

According to Chris Stager, president of the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County, Jomar’s leadership wants to build a 75,000-square-foot building at their Middlebury location with the goal of consolidating and streamlining their large-scale machine fabrication process, with a focus on building industrial shredding systems for the burgeoning tire recycling industry.

Lavon Detweiler, CEO of Jomar, spoke briefly about the company’s plans for the new facility Saturday morning.

“We’ve been designing and improving this machine for probably 15 years now, and just in the last five or six years, we’ve really started selling a lot of them around the country and the world,” Detweiler said of the company’s industrial shredding system. “The reason for the expansion is, over the last two years, we’ve seen steadily increasing orders. These are very large projects, typically. The last couple that went to Texas were in the couple-million-dollar range. So they’re big, big investments for companies that want to expand into this type of equipment, and they take a long time to build.”

Detweiler noted the company always completely constructs and tests each new system at its Middlebury facility prior to delivery, which currently requires a significant amount of outside work given the large size of the machines and the company’s current lack of available indoor space.

By constructing the proposed new 75,000-square-foot building, Detweiler said the company should be able to conduct its initial construction and system testing entirely indoors, which will provide a much better environment for the company’s current and future workforce, particularly during the colder winter months.

“For employee retention, we feel like we’ve got to get this all inside the building, or it’s just really difficult to get our guys to want to work outside when it’s 20 below zero,” Detweiler added of the request.

According to Stager, the planned Middlebury project promises an estimated $5.8 million in redevelopment or rehabilitation of the targeted real estate, plus an additional $1.65 million for new manufacturing equipment.

As part of the project, company officials have also indicated plans to hire approximately 16 new full-time positions with an average hourly wage of $27.88, for a total estimated annual salary payout for the new positions of $928,000.

In order to qualify for the tax phase-in agreement, Jomar will be required to stay in operation at its Middlebury location for no less than seven years. Should the company fail to meet its obligations under the phase-in agreement, it would be forced to repay the county a prorated portion of the total real estate and personal property taxes saved as a result of the tax phase-in agreement.

A hearing to consider passage of a final, confirmatory resolution for the requested tax phase-in is set for the council’s May 11 meeting.

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