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County, city could partner on jobs deal

Rothschild Farm will add workers, boost payroll as part of planned expansion.

A partnership discussed Tuesday could secure as many as 50 existing jobs at Robert Rothschild Farm, create at least 16 more and help the city of Urbana extend its infrastructure to attract new business in the future.

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

Robert Rothschild Farm would spend an additional $467,000 in infrastructure improvements to hook into the sewer line, including a lift station and a pre-treatment facility.The total cost of the project would be about $787,000.

“This is a collaborative effort looking at the greater good of the community,” said Kerry Brugger, director of administration for the city.

The collaboration would allow Rothschild Farm to create 16 new full-time positions that would pay approximately $50,000 annually, plus benefits. The company would also retain 50 existing positions and increase its payroll from $2.5 to $3.3 million.

According to information provided to council members, Champaign County was competing with locations including Indiana, Kentucky and Michigan for the expansion. In addition to the infrastructure investment, the company also has long-term plans to add manufacturing machinery and equipment and could also build a distribution center at the site. Representatives from Rothschild could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The company has also received other incentives to remain in Champaign County. Last month, the Ohio Tax Credit Authority approved a 40 percent, five-year tax credit for the company that would allow the company to create as many as 25 full-time jobs. In return for the tax credit, the company would agree to maintain its operations in Champaign County for at least eight years. The 16 jobs created through the potential agreement would be included in the 25 total jobs expected as part of the tax credit.

The city will likely recoup its investment in as little as two years as Rothschild Farm pays fees to the city to treat the waste, said Larry Lokai, a city council member. Some council members have said while it makes little sense to extend the sewer line for a single company, it could provide additional benefits to the city in the long-term. Extending the infrastructure could eventually allow other businesses to tap into the line, leading to more jobs and more revenue for the city.

The agreement will also help retain and create jobs in the short-term, said Al Evans, a city council member.

“We’re able to assist them with staying in the area and retaining these jobs,” Evans said.

Marcia Bailey, economic development coordinator for the city, has also discussed the proposal with the Champaign County commissioners, who are expected to discuss it at a meeting later this month. The commissioners still have to agree to the proposal before it can more forward.

Robert Rothschild Farm was founded in Urbana in 1976, and the company produces as many as 250 specialty food products, including several varieties of dips, mustards and dry mixes. The company has about 50 full-time employees, but if temporary workers during the company’s busy season are included, that number can increase to about 80.

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