Chill-Can Developer Vows to Complete Project

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The developer of the delayed Chill-Can complex on the East Side says more time is needed to finish the project, despite pressure from the city that it either fast-track completion within 60 days or face legal consequences.

“I want to assure the people of the Mahoning Valley, especially the residents of the city of Youngstown, that we have never wavered in our commitment to the Chill Can Beverage and Technology project,” Mitchell Joseph, CEO of the M.J. Joseph Development Corp., said in a statement Wednesday. “To date, we have invested $5 million of our own funds into the project above and beyond the grant from the city and we will continue to do whatever is necessary to make the East Side facility a center of innovation and manufacturing.”

M.J. Joseph Development Corp., a subsidiary of Joseph Co. International based in Irvine, Calif., broke ground on the campus in November 2016. The project has since stalled and the city is now demanding that Joseph complete work or it will pursue legal means to claw back $1.5 million in grant money and tax breaks it awarded the project, plus take action to reclaim the property and buildings on the site.

The project is billed as a manufacturing and technology campus for the world’s first self-chilling can, and Joseph had promised to bring at least 237 jobs to the city. 

Yet more than four years after the company broke ground, three unused buildings sit at the site and few employees have been hired.  Not a single can has been produced. 

The city informed Joseph on March 26 in a letter that his company was in default of two development agreements signed in 2017, contending that the project has missed numerous benchmarks related to the project’s completion, such as hiring, construction and production timelines.

In his statement, Joseph said the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic halted progress at the complex. 

“The pandemic impacted every aspect of our business in the U.S. and abroad,” Joseph said. “For over a year, the shutdown of the global economy has interrupted our supply chains, disrupted our operations and affected our suppliers, vendors and customers.”

Joseph said the company has made the proper adjustments to endure the COVID crisis and anticipates business to return to pre-pandemic levels once the global economy recovers.

“Time is needed to complete the construction phase of the Youngstown complex and hire Valley residents so that we may begin to manufacture and distribute product,” he said. 

Joseph’s attorney, Brian Kopp, of Betras Kopp & Harshman, Canfield, said in a statement that he looks forward to discussing the matter with city officials.

“I am confident that a mutually acceptable plan exists,” Kopp said. “However, if the city refuses to acknowledge the difficulties caused by the pandemic, I am prepared to defend the interests of MJJDC and seek all legal remedies available to it.”

As of this posting, city officials had not responded to requests seeking comment. 

“The company has invested millions of its own dollars in the Youngstown project and I have the privilege of assisting as it works diligently to complete a profitable and sustainable facility that will employ the hardworking people of our community,” Kopp said.

Related Coverage

March 31: City Says Chill-Can in Default of Tax Break, $1.5M Grant Agreements

April 1: City Never Turned Over Some Land Where Chill-Can Sits

April 12: Chill-Can Developer Still Owes YSU Nearly $200,000

Read Our Coverage of Economic Development Initiatives, Including Chill-Can’s Tax Breaks, HERE

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.