Update: 8:24 a.m., June 11 | Corrected hiring projections from Old Dominion
WARREN, Ohio — In a unanimous vote Wednesday, Trumbull County Commissioners voted to approve a tax abatement for the $7 million Old Dominion Freight Line terminal project in Lordstown.
The agreement provides a 40% tax abatement on real property taxes for 10 years. The vote comes one week after some 50 local labor representatives held a job action at the Tod Avenue site where the proposed 30,422-square-foot building will be built.
Trades members were concerned about the construction jobs for the project being filled by out-of-town workers. Earlier this week, county commissioners met with union leaders and representatives from the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber to address those concerns, says Frank Fuda, president of the board of commissioners.
Old Dominion advised the county that about 70% of the subcontract work still needs handed out, Fuda says.
“They’ve agreed to do the best they can to get local people to fill that,” Fuda says.
No union representatives were on hand for the vote nor were they dialed in for the teleconference meeting, though Fuda expected them to be, he says. However, after discussing the agreement earlier in the week, “Everything seemed to be OK with the union reps” who were present, he says.
Currently, concrete and electrical work were the two biggest contracts handed out and both were given to local workers, says Nick Coggins, economic development coordinator of the Trumbull County Planning Commission.
The general contractor for the project has been waiting to break ground and needed the subcontract work handed out to do so, Coggins says. With the vote Wednesday, the contractor could likely have shovels in the ground “as early as tomorrow,” Coggins says.
The goal is to have the project complete sometime between December 2020 or February 2021, he says.
All of the contracts won’t be in place until that construction work is almost complete, he says. The agreement for the other 70% of subcontract work is more of a “gentleman’s agreement” to give union and nonunion shops the opportunity to bid on those contracts, he explains.
“We’re going to continue to have meetings with the unions about what we can do to improve the program and how we can make sure that they’re aware of projects that would be asking for abatements,” Coggins says, “so they have a fair opportunity to make bids on any that would come forward.”
To do that, the county is awaiting an opinion from the attorney general’s office on legal language that can be added into a contract to require a certain amount of the work be awarded to local workers, he says. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, however, that opinion will likely be delayed.
The county is also researching what other areas of the state are doing. No details have been set. Under consideration is a meet-and-confer, which a company would have to agree to before the county even considers an application for tax abatement, he says.
With a meet-and-confer, the general contractor is invited to the county to meet with leadership of trades unions as well as nonunion trades to discuss the project, provide a direct contact for local trades and “give the local guys a leg up on how to bid on the project,” Coggins says.
Until the attorney general provides an opinion, however, the county is unsure if it can legally require such a stipulation, he notes.
Old Dominion, a freight company based in Thomasville, N.C., will move from its Girard location to the new Lordstown terminal, which will have 59 loading docks. Furst Construction Co. of Salt Lake City, which has constructed other terminals for Old Dominion, is project manager for the Lordstown terminal.
Old Dominion has promised to hire 20 additional employees within five years and potentially 40 within 10 years.
Old Dominion initially sought a 60% tax abatement for a period of 10 years. Lordstown Village Council negotiated with the company to reach the 40% number, Council President Ron Radtka reported on June 1 when the council voted to approve the abatement.