Council members question company about employment shortfall

A Columbus company was approved for a tax break last night on a $4.3 million investment. But not before questions from City Council members about why it failed to meet promised employment goals for its last abatement.

Nikkei  MC Aluminum America on South Inwood Drive requested the tax abatement on a planned investment that includes a $2.3 million and nearly 10,000 square foot expansion of its facility and just over $2 million in new manufacturing equipment.

The company said the expansion would allow it to retain its 90 current employees with average wages of $25.88 an hour and add eight more positions by 2024 at an average wage of $16.87 an hour.

However, Council member Elaine Hilber pointed out that the company promised to have 95 employees by this time already when it asked for an abatement in 2020. She said that the council’s incentive review committee recommended not approving the new request based on the unfulfilled headcount promise.

Nikkei Project engineer Chris Smith told the council that economic conditions and problems with new equipment had led the company to miss the employment goal. He said the company plans to work through the equipment issues by the end of this year or early next year.

Council member Dave Bush said that the company’s addition of five employees was a 7 percent increase and while it would have been nice to see the promised 10, the company’s efforts were commendable. Council member Tom Dell said that increasing employment is an important component of tax abatement requests, because increasing income taxes from new employees helps offset the loss of new property taxes from the abatement.

Hilber and Council member Grace Kestler voted against the tax abatement.