We at Waelz Sustainable Products (WSP) view our proposed facility in Cass County as the start of an important partnership with the local community. Our goal is that WSP and Cass County benefit in both the near and long term. We are confident that, when people learn the facts about our state-of-the-art zinc processing facility, they will agree with the environmental stewardship and positive economic benefit we collectively can achieve for Cass County and the State of Indiana for many years to come. But I specifically want to focus on the economics so that everyone in Cass County can judge our proposal for themselves.

WSP will invest $110 million in Cass County for our facility. This will spark significant opportunity for local contractors and suppliers. Importantly, this represents private investment by WSP — not public money. We will also create 90 good paying, permanent jobs in the process — and we’re committed to hiring locally. What do I mean by good-paying? The average salary will be $49,000. We’ll also offer comprehensive benefits packages, including health care, dental, vision, 401k retirement, profit sharing and variable compensation, among other benefits. We also expect the project to indirectly support an additional 50 jobs.

In fact, we have already begun recruiting interested, local candidates for the general manager position of the plant. We will be seeking interested applicants and hiring for additional roles through the remainder of the year so that our team will be in place by the time we are ready to begin operations in early 2021.

Our facility will also generate substantial tax revenue for Cass County and Indiana. This will lead to increased funds for education, investment in infrastructure and improved government services. In our first two decades of operation, we expect to generate $6.6 million in net property taxes that will be retained by the county. In addition, we expect to generate over $30,000 annually in local income taxes. The project will add to Cass County’s cash flows, not the other way around.

Our project also brings much-needed diversification to Cass County’s tax base. By adding to the county’s existing tax base, our project doesn’t just benefit local government and services, it also ensures that multiple industries are adding to the tax rolls, reducing local reliance on any single industry or company.

We are committed to ensuring that our facility is a major benefit to Cass County. So that raises the question of what WSP is receiving to bring our facility to Cass County — a frequent point of concern upon which we would like to shed some light.

The primary incentive being provided by Cass County is a reduction in the property taxes that the project creates. We will still pay property taxes — more than one hundred times more than the property generates today — but at a reduced rate for the first 20 years of operation. This type of incentive is in the form of a bond, known as developer-backed Tax Increment Finance (“TIF”) support. Since the TIF bond would be backed solely by a portion of the property taxes which the project creates, the county will neither incur any debt nor have any negative cash flows tied to the issuance of the bond. In fact, the county will be making money on our project starting in year one, revenues that can be utilized for other economic development initiatives and community needs.

The other incentive WSP received is the 57-acre project site, which the county acquired over five years ago for approximately $1 million. Until now, that property was not producing revenue for the County and its residents. Additionally, we received $240,000 to assist with the acquisition of additional land that WSP purchased for approximately $2 million.

In total, the county’s contribution to our project is approximately $1.2 million, while WSP is investing $110 million. And the county is gaining nearly $7 million in direct revenue. As I said at the beginning, this is a partnership, and we are confident that this project will be a net benefit for the people of Cass County.

It is important to us that all residents of Cass County have the facts about this project and how it impacts them. We will share detailed environmental information in another column, and we are continuing to engage with individuals, both those supportive and opposed, in traditional and social media to answer questions and share information. We are working on other ways to communicate with interested residents while we remain under the current mandated COVID-19 restrictions.

For example, representatives of WSP, including me, joined the “Talk of the Town” radio program on WSAL on Tuesday, May 5 to discuss the many positive benefits of this project. Additionally, we are working on organizing a virtual town hall meeting. Stay tuned for more information on this initiative. In the meantime, we invite you to visit our website, www.wsp.casscounty.com.

We look forward to continuing to engage with you and communicating why we believe that WSP and Cass County make great partners.

Darci Ackerman is the senior vice president for growth and new ventures and director of research and development for Heritage Environmental Services LLC and a WSP Representative.

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