Feb. 13--NORMAL -- Local officials hope the promise of public money can help attract a buyer for the Mitsubishi plant in Normal.
The town has started the process to turn the plant, which is set to close May 1, and surrounding area into a tax increment financing (TIF) district -- guaranteeing future land owners that property tax revenue they generate is spent only in the district.
"The town staff, along with staff members from the (Bloomington-Normal) Economic Development Council, believe that a TIF designation in this area would be a very valuable tool in helping to attract new investment," according to a memo from Normal City Manager Mark Peterson, "and consequently replace some, if not all, of the manufacturing jobs that have been lost."
The plant employed 1,200 workers until production shut down last fall. Neighboring businesses that provided goods and services to the plant are shutting down as well, according to the memo.
Peterson said he hasn't heard from potential buyers that a TIF is necessary, but that's because "we haven't even gotten that far" in previous sale discussions.
The next step toward a TIF is a feasibility study, which will be before the City Council on Monday. Officials haven't figured out the cost of that study that Peterson said will be performed by St. Louis architecture, design and planning firm PGAV.
"It remains to be seen if the area will qualify for TIF designation in accordance with the requirements set forth in state statute," according to the memo. "However, the feasibility study... would also indicate what alternative uses of the properties within the study area would be appropriate and how those uses could possibly benefit from tax increment financing."
Officials have been searching for a buyer for the plant since Mitsubishi announced the closure last summer. They hope to find a new automotive tenant, but haven't ruled out other buyers.
Council approval also would "allow the town to recover all of the costs associated with studying and creating the TIF" and let property owners in the TIF area recover money they invest between Tuesday and when the district is instituted -- but only if the district is eventually approved.
"We know of at least one building out there that's occupied that the owner is looking at expansion," Peterson said.
Active TIF locations in Normal include uptown Normal; Main and Osage streets, a hub of development near Illinois State University; and the site of the future Radisson Hotel next to Interstate 55 north of ISU.
Follow Derek Beigh on Twitter: @pg_beigh
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