Tax Abatement OK’d for $1.3M Project in East Liverpool

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio – City Council on Monday approved legislation authorizing formation of a Community Reinvestment Area for a Chester, W.Va.-based company with hopes of relocating to the city.

Following a presentation by Chuck Bailey, founder and CEO of True North LLC, City Council voted unanimously under suspension of rules for the CRA, which will grant a tax abatement for $1.3 million in improvements planned for the building at 119 E. Fifth St., which currently houses the Buckeye Online School for Success.

True North, an accounting and business services outsourcing firm, purchased the 31,000-square-foot office building in March for $625,000 and has leased space back to Buckeye Online School for Success so it can remain downtown.

With significant remodeling eyed for the building, Bailey said a 15-year tax abatement on that work was sought from both the city and East Liverpool City School District.

As a school, Buckeye Online School for Success has been exempt from paying property taxes to the city for the building, but True North’s acquisition as a private company means it will now pay property taxes on the base value of the building, generating revenue the city was not previously receiving.

Plans call for remodeling the second through fifth floors for modern, efficient office space and a future entrepreneur center and business incubator, with the first floor remodeled as a conference center and an employee breakroom/gathering space.

“This is a win for the city of East Liverpool and for True North,” Bailey said.

Currently housed in the former C.A. Smith mansion across the Jennings Randolph Bridge in Chester, True North has outgrown its facilities, and with a team of 55 full-time employees, is seeking a permanent home for both its existing team and an additional 20 or more staff members expected to be hired over the next 24 months.

Bailey told City Council about 95 percent of True North’s employees live within 10 miles of the downtown building.

Bailey said the tax abatement is an important step but there is still work to be done to make the relocation happen.

“We have made it clear that we are looking for a new home, but there are still a few gaps in financing that need to be filled before we can move to the next step,” Bailey said.

“It is a complex process to secure financing for such a large project in a market that has experienced negative growth, with many neighboring buildings in disrepair,” Bailey said. “It’s tough to get all the banks on board as no one lender wants to take all the risk.”

True North founder and CEO Chuck Bailey addresses East Liverpool City Council on Monday.

Bailey said he is waiting on two phone calls to “finish the puzzle.”

“We are very appreciative of the city of East Liverpool’s support, but without those final pieces, it will be difficult to achieve our ultimate goal of building a world-class facility in the city,” he said.

True North was founded by Bailey in 2012 after a 27-year corporate career that took him and his family around the world.

His wife is originally from Chester, and Bailey said they returned to the area to be near family, with a goal of building a high-tech company serving customers on a national scale.

Part of that goal was hiring “eager, rust belt employees possessing a strong work ethic and eager to work for a quality company,” he noted in a report distributed to City Council.

Today, True North services customers in 43 states, delivering bookkeeping, accounting and revenue cycle management services that rival the biggest firms in the country.

Some of the company’s executive leadership grew up locally, moved from the area, then made their way back to the Ohio Valley, Bailey said.

In his written report to City Council, Bailey said employers are fighting the battle to get employees back to the office post-Covid.

“Not having employees in the office harms the company and, as importantly, harms the community with lack of foot traffic,” he wrote in the report.

An efficient, modern office space will attract high quality employees who will be in the office more frequently, impacting the community by eating, shopping and creating energy locally, according to Bailey.

The plan was met with open arms by city officials, with Mayor Bobby Smith calling it “the best thing that’s happened to East Liverpool in 100 years.”

“People like Chuck Bailey and [True North executive] Drew Cooper are what this city needs,” he said.

Service-Safety Director Bill Jones thanked Bailey and Cooper for “taking a chance on East Liverpool,” emphasizing his office will do whatever it can to assist them in their endeavors.

Pictured at top: The building at 119 E. Fifth St. in East Liverpool.

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