Mantua Township’s loss is Rootstown’s gain, as county commissioners recently approved a 15-year property tax abatement for Singleton Reels to relocate to the township and more than double the size of its manufacturing facility.
The company makes crates and reels used for spooling things like industrial wire, hose and cable.
Scott Hamilton, the company president, said his company plans to build a 90,000-square-foot warehouse with 3,400 square feet of office space on Lynn Road in Rootstown, just down the street from the AA Antique Mall.
“We’re delighted. It’s a small community we want to be part of, helping any way we can. It’s a perfect location for us, very similar to Mantua, and we’re excited to be there,” Hamilton said.
The 80% tax abatement affects the new construction, not the land itself, which has been farmland, Rootstown Trustee Dave McIntyre said.
According to the terms of the tax abatement agreement, Singleton Reels intends to invest $500,000 in the land, $6.6 million in new construction, $400,000 in machinery and equipment, and $50,000 in furniture and fixtures, for a total of $7.55 million.
The company currently employs 19 people and must add seven more within three years, according to the agreement. Doing so will increase its current $1.515 million payroll by $620,000.
If the company does not meet its benchmarks in three years, or fails to maintain those benchmarks for the life of the agreement, the tax abatements can be revoked, said Portage Development Board President Brad Ehrhart.
Hamilton said the company needed to move because Mantua Township cannot provide the fire suppression capabilities the company requires, and that is the reason stated in the formal agreement as well.
Mantua Township Trustee John Festa isn’t happy.
Festa said the first he heard about Singleton Reels relocating was when the trustees got a letter from Portage Development Board, and by then it was a done deal.
“We had no say so. The matter was already decided upon,” he said. “They never asked our opinion.”
Festa said he and fellow trustees Matt Benner and Susan Lilley believe Hamilton made the decision to leave Mantua Township because of expansion plans and the tax abatement, not water supply.
“Fire suppression is on them. If you want fire suppression in your building, you have to make arrangements for that,” Festa said. “We don’t do that.”
Hamilton agreed that he did receive a fire variance when he enlarged his Mantua Township building in 1998, but this time he did not pursue one. State regulations, he said, would have required him to install numerous firewalls and wouldn’t have allowed him to connect an addition to the existing building, so he never approached Mantua Township officials about it.
Moving to a different location in Mantua Township would still have involved a lack of water for fire suppression, he said.
Losing Singleton Reels underscores the importance of lining township streets with hydrants, something Benner, who formerly served the community as fire chief, said he has unsuccessfully lobbied the county to do for decades. Each time, he was told the massive undertaking was not feasible, he said.
Lacking hydrants, business owners had to obtain a fire suppression variance from the state, and then invest in a heat and smoke detector system, fire walls, fire doors and other costly safety measures that businesses in more developed areas take for granted, Benner said.
“It’s horrible. We can’t afford to be losing businesses out of the township,” he said.
With Mantua Township not a cost-effective option, Hamilton said he started scouting sites in Streetsboro and Aurora, looking for “the best pricing for available land and what was available for abatements,” he said.
Rootstown won, and Hamilton said he plans to open in the fall of 2023 or spring of 2024.
Once the business opens, Singleton Reels will be looking for people to fill warehouse and assembly jobs.
“We pay way over minimum wage and it really is a good place to work,” he said. “We are going to increase the labor force. We are going to increase the dollars of taxable income for everybody.”
Knowing that some people disagree with tax abatements, Rootstown Trustee Brett Housley said government officials must balance present and future finances with growth.
“Everybody wants everybody to pay their fair share but it’s hard when you’re trying to attract people to the community to fulfill a comprehensive land use plan that requires growth,” he said. “Sometimes everybody has to work together to make things work out.”
In 2016, a group of 20 citizens, trustee representatives and the township zoning commission crafted Rootsotwn’s comprehensive land use plan to guide the township’s future growth.
“You give these people the ability to succeed so down the road they bring in a lot of taxes compared to what residential houses do, and that was the reason for the comprehensive land use plan, and that’s why they want that growth down that road,” Housley said.
Rootstown welcomes Singleton Reels with open arms, he said.
“We are appreciative that they want to invest in our town. It’s always good when companies such as Singleton Reels want to invest in our community,” Housley said. “That area that they are investing in has been part of our plan for this type of improvement, and we are excited to have them in our community.”
Hamilton said his company is negotiating with Rootstown and Maplewood schools to provide some percentage of what he would have paid in taxes to the districts, growing their revenue pie over and beyond what they currently bring in from levies. The schools would continue to receive the sum for the entire 15-year life of the abatement agreement.
Rootstown Superintendent Andrew Hawkins said he looks forward to having a number ready to present to the school board at its May 15 meeting, and noted that Singleton Reels has already donated money toward improving the district’s flag area at the stadium.
“We are excited to have them move in to be a part of the Rootstown community,” Hawkins said.