Tax breaks help to keep World Kitchen in G-A

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot

World Kitchen will remain in Greencastle for the foreseeable future, according to the owner of the facility. As first reported by the Echo Pilot Wednesday, Nov. 28, Matrix Development Group announced World Kitchen had signed a full-building lease renewal to continue occupying the entirety of 1200 S. Antrim Way, a 1.03-million-square-foot warehouse/distribution facility.

While World Kitchen has yet to issue a statement on the development, Matrix said the lease term is 10 years. The old lease expires on Jan. 31, 2013.

The property qualified for Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance (LERTA) by Antrim Township on Aug. 14. Greencastle-Antrim School District followed suit on Aug. 16. Establishing LERTA zones had been under consideration over the summer, as developers asked for tax breaks to attract tenants. Antrim supervisors decided to put all industrial zones into LERTA, with the exception of the Bowman tract on Grindstone Hill Road.

Under LERTA, Matrix will continue to pay $300,000 in real estate taxes to the school district. Antrim does not levy the tax. For improvements to the World Kitchen building, and any new construction, the tax will be on a sliding scale for 10 years. In the 11th year, World Kitchen will pay the full amount due.

Gary Hans, Matrix vice president of operations, and James Murray, vice president of the industrial portfolio, had addressed Antrim and the school board, asking for the consideration in order to retain its longtime tenant. World Kitchen, headquartered in Rosemont, Ill., employed 400 people in Greencastle, but the building was 50 years old, and outdated in design and functionality.

Matrix said it will fuse over $10 million into property improvements. The renovations will include 20,000 square feet of new corporate office space, replacement of HVAC systems, the incorporation of a modern sprinkler system, new roofing, additional truck docks and a new building envelope consisting of pre-cast concrete and metal panels. Site work will include the expansion of trailer parking by more than 150 stalls and the allocation of land to accommodate approximately 230,000 square feet of future expansion.

Situated on 70 acres, the site benefits from being within Foreign Trade Zone 147, said Matrix. It is less than a quarter-mile from the Norfolk Southern Intermodal Freight Transport Facility and less than one mile from Exit 3 of Interstate 81. An additional 64 acres is available for future development.

“This lease will continue to provide World Kitchen with a significant presence in the Pennsylvania industrial market, particularly the I-81 South market, which is a dynamic distribution hub that features a tremendous pool of labor residing within commuting distance,” Murray said. “Additionally, the property   offers outstanding proximity to the ports of Philadelphia and Baltimore, as well as major international airports. It also puts the company within an overnight drive of one-third of the nation’s population.”

Reactions

Murray said by phone Friday that the lease agreement came about for a variety of reasons. The efforts of Antrim Township, Greencastle-Antrim School District (G-ASD), Franklin County Area Development Corporation, the Governor's Action Team, and even rival developer Atapco played a role.

"During this process, their proactive and cooperative efforts certainly helped," he said. "They all helped get LERTA approval. Antrim and G-ASD acted quickly. Our thanks to them."

Brad Graham, Antrim Township administrator, commented, "The G-A community is very excited about the announcement that World Kitchen renewed their lease, thus continuing their longstanding presence in the region. This decision means not only the retention of the business but also potential positive impact on new businesses locating here.”

Greg Hoover, Superintendent of Schools, stated, “The district is excited for the expansion of the economic development that this brings to the area. It is no secret that school districts are facing major financial difficulties. For the G-ASD, if real estate taxes are our major source of income, then commercial development is not just a wish but a necessity. We hope that other interested parties will see that we are encouraging economic growth by partnering with the township in developing tax incentives through a LERTA.”

“We believe that World Kitchen staying in the community is a major step in expanding development in the township." said Joel Fridgen, executive director on the G-A Chamber of Commerce. "The Borough of Greencastle is working on LERTA zones with the school district. All of this demonstrates a commitment to business retention and promoting new economic opportunities in our area, which eventually will benefit the tax base of each municipality."

Mike Ross, FCADC president, added, “This project is an example of what can be accomplished when government entities collaborate with a mutual goal and purpose in response to business needs that become apparent.”

Murray reiterated, "The local help was huge. They deserve a lot of credit. Their efforts speak volumes."