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County considers $160K deal with Rothschild

The Champaign County commissioners reviewed a request Tuesday that if approved, could cover some of the costs to extend a sewer line to Robert Rothschild Farm.

The specialty foods company has sought the aid as part of an expansion that would add 25 jobs.

Marcia Bailey, Urbana director of economic development, said the county commissioners’ decision is the final piece of a plan that would also include contributions from the city and the company.

Under the proposal, Urbana would spend $160,000 from its sanitary sewer funds to extend the sewer line to Rothschild Farm, located just outside the city limits on U.S. 36. The county commissioners would apply for an additional $160,000 through a state Community Development Block Grant to assist with the extension.

Rothschild Farm would pay an additional $467,000 to build a lift station and a pre-treatment facility.

Champaign County Prosecutor Kevin Talebi will review the proposal, and the commissioners could vote as early as Thursday. Urbana city council members have already reviewed a similar resolution for their part of the agreement, Bailey said, and will likely vote in March. The plan cannot move forward without the county commissioners’ approval.

Business has roughly tripled at Robert Rothschild Farm in recent years, said Jim Gordon, president and CEO of the company. More growth is likely in the future. Rothschild Farm is a $27 million a year business, Gordon said, and could grow to a $40 million to $45 million company in a few years.

“Based on what I’ve seen it’s very achievable,” he said.

The company produces as many as 250 specialty food products, including mixes, mustards and dips. It employs about 50 full-time workers, and can employ as many as 80 if temporary workers are included during the company’s busy season.

But the company has outgrown its infrastructure, Gordon said, and the Environmental Protection Agency has said the business must tap into the city sewer line to expand any further.

Under the terms of the state CDBG fund, the county commissioners could be responsible to repay the $160,000 if Rothschild Farm doesn’t create at least 16 full-time jobs, including at least nine that pay between $30,000 to $33,000 per year.

But Gordon said the company has already pledged to pay that fee if necessary, and said he is confident the company will meet its goal.

There have also been no discussions for the city to annex land, said Kerry Brugger, director of administration for the city.

“It’s not even on the table at this point,” Brugger said.

Although Champaign County was competing with sites in Indiana, Kentucky and Michigan for the expansion, Gordon said the company’s priority is to stay in Champaign County.

“We don’t want to leave,” Gordon said. “This is where the business was founded.”

Earlier this year, the Ohio Tax Credit Authority also approved a 40 percent, five-year tax credit for the company that would allow it to create as many as 25 jobs. In return, the company would agree to remain in the county for at least eight years. The 16 jobs created as part of the agreement with Champaign County would be included in that total.

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