Midwest Poultry seeks tax abatement

March 12th, 2018

By Josh Sigler | The Paper of Wabash County

Midwest Poultry on Monday, Feb. 26, received a 10-year tax abatement from the Wabash County Council, to help offset costs sustained in a fire in October which destroyed five buildings at its Hi-Grade Egg Producers facility in rural North Manchester.

The measure passed 4-1, with District 3 councilman Matt Dillon the only dissenting vote. Lorissa Sweet and newly appointed member Babara Pearson had prior engagements and were not at the meeting.

The resolution designates Midwest Poultry’s Hi-Grade Egg Producers as an economic revitalization area.

Grow Wabash County CEO Keith Gillenwater said the intention is to request a tax abatement for both personal and real property. Gillenwater said that his review authority board reviewed the situation gave a favorable recommendation.

Midwest Poultry is proposing an investment of about $13,100,000 in real property, as well as $11,897,500 in personal property. With that, they will retain 15 employees who were previously employed.

The plan is to build four new buildings to replace the five old ones. Over a million birds were lost in the October fire, but Midwest poultry plans to replace a million of those birds.

“After that fire they didn’t lay off or lose any employees,” Gillenwater said. “They put them at other facilities until they could decide what their future was.”

Bob Krouse , president and CEO of Midwest Poultry, explained that he married into the family, but it has operated in Wabash County since 1875, with a water powered grain mill on the Eel River in the beginning.

Krouse’s sons are now part of the business, marking the sixth generation to join the operation.

“We’re excited to continue to invest in Wabash County,” Krouse said. “Since 2010, we’ve spent over $100,000,000 on noncapital projects with the feed mill, and some of the other farms we’ve dealt with. We’ve invested an enormous amount in this county, and we hope to continue to keep doing that. But, we need the support of the county, and need to get some of the tax advantages that our competitors are getting in other places.”

Dillon posted to his Facebook page as to why he opposed the measure, stating: “I voted against the resolution to create an economic revitalization area at Midwest Poultry for the following reasons:

In my opinion, the resolution reclassifies private property as public property by saying that the revitalization project is ‘of public utility … to the benefit and welfare of all citizens and taxpayers of the County’ and authorizes the taxation of Midwest Poultry for its use of that property. Some might argue that only planning for the project as that which is of public utility, but that doesn’t make sense considering the purpose for the creation of the revitalization area – which is a tax abatement on real and personal property. I cannot reasonably believe that a plan ‘to construct new manufacturing facilities and to install new manufacturing equipment’ can have a greater value that the facilities and equipment themselves. I see this wording as authorization to take away Midwest Poultry’s property and convert it into tax dollars.

“Before the tragedy that resulted in Midwest Poultry losing five barns and over a million chickens to a fire, they were paying less property tax that what is being proposed after four years under this new tax abatement plan. This means we will have given Midwest Poultry a four-year tax abatement on real and personal property instead of the 10-year abatement that they wanted and then taking more property taxes from them than what they were paying before. In good conscience, I cannot help pave the way to pass a tax increase on Midwest Poultry in the aftermath of that fire.

“Furthermore, I believe that the farmers and businesses operating in our county are already overtaxed on their property and that this condition is causing economic hardship. If the goal is to keep a business that currently operates in Wabash County from leaving the county, then I do not think that taxing them more than what they were paying before is a good way to get them to stay.”