Munster council approves solar plant tax abatement

2012-08-19T00:00:00Z Munster council approves solar plant tax abatementLu Ann Franklin Times Correspondent
August 19, 2012 12:00 am  • 

MUNSTER | A renewable energy consortium moving three businesses into the Lake Business Center received approval from the Town Council for a 10-year tax abatement on one of those businesses.

Arland Energy System, of Evanston, Ill., will build the three businesses in a 72-acre mixed-use center near Calumet Avenue and Fran-Lin Parkway in Munster. The center is being renovated by developer Mitch Simborg.

The tax abatement will be for manufacturing equipment installed at Indiana Solar One, a facility that will produce solar panels with American-made components.

The abatement allows property taxes on the equipment to be phased in over 10 years and will permit the company to make significant investments in the new facility in its initial years of operation, Town Manager Tom DeGiulio said.

A tax abatement means the company pays no property taxes on equipment in the first year. The second year, Arland will pay 10 percent of its property taxes, followed by 20 percent in the third year and so on until it pays 100 percent in the 11th year and every year after.

Arland’s three business lines also will be in the Munster tax increment financing district. That means a portion of the property taxes paid are returned by the state to the town to use for improvements in and surrounding the TIF district.

The plant’s 90 employees will assemble solar panels from parts made throughout the United States, Arland Chief Financial Officer Terry Gaouette said. The business also will employ a research and development staff.

The council’s unanimous vote came after a public hearing on the tax abatement.

Only James Kaczka, of Munster, remonstrated. He questioned whether the company could compete in a marketplace that had been “decimated by the Chinese” in a practice called “dumping,” or below-market price fixing.

Gaouette said the solar panel industry is “challenging” and there have been “some problems caused by dumping by the Chinese.”

“We’ve done quite a bit of research," Gaouette said. "The technology we’re employing is new, a big development in solar-panel manufacturing.”

This new processing method produces “a film material that gives our panels smaller dimensions” that are more efficient, Gaouette said.

“The total plant has existing orders for its first 12 months, or $85 million in revenues,” he said.

Munster Town Council President David Nellans said the tax abatement is reviewed annually and can be revoked if the company doesn’t create jobs and be profitable under its part of the agreement.

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