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Beam's barrels a bonus for school system

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Marion County Fiscal Court and Beam Global reach agreement

By Stevie Lowery

In a 3-1 decision, the Marion County Fiscal Court approved an agreement with Beam Global Thursday, which will grant the company 30 years of tax abatement but will also require it to invest more than $1 million in the Marion County school system.

"We've come to a resolution that does a couple things. No. 1., it's fair to both parties," Magistrate John Arthur Elder III said. "No. 2, it gives us area for the future if those questions are raised again in regards to abatement."

In March, the fiscal court discussed Beam Global's plans, which at the time, were to build up to 11 new warehouses for Maker's Mark Distillery by 2017. Since then, the company has decided to build six warehouses, instead of 11, with a bond issue from the county of up to $180 million. Beam will determine within the next few years what its future warehousing needs will be. If Makers' Mark decides to build the other five warehouses, Beam will approach the fiscal court with another proposal for those five warehouses, according to the agreement.

Once the six warehouses are constructed and filled, which is expected to be in 2017, Makers' Mark will make an annual payment of approximately $50,000 to the Marion County Board of Education. Until 2017, the annual payment would be slightly less, but over the next 30 years it would amount to more than $1 million in additional revenue for Marion County Public Schools.

"Part of the attractiveness of getting this done is you further solidify the commitment that they have to the community," Marion County Attorney Joe Mattingly said. "It makes it more difficult for a company who has just invested $180 million to up and walk away."

Before magistrates cast their vote, Mattingly told them that they should be commended for their work on this issue.

"There are a lot of other counties that had a shot at this proposal who basically came in and said whatever you want, Beam, we're ready to move with it..." he said. "The questions you all asked, I think, did two things. First of all, it convinced Beam that it did merit a substantial contribution to our school system to do this. And, No. 2, it set a pretty high bar for anyone else who comes before the court and is looking for a significant tax break. Whether you vote for or against it, it certainly has opened the eyes of folks to what advantages there are in this community and that it is worthwhile to invest more if you can locate here as opposed to someplace else. You guys have been good stewards, I think, to the taxpayers."

Magistrates Elder, Larry Caldwell and Jackie Wicker voted in favor of the agreement.

Magistrate Cotton Smothers voted no.

"I don't want to open that door that's going to be hard for us to close," he said. "I think anyway you slice that pie, I think it's ugly."

Magistrate Steve Masterson, who works at Maker's Mark, abstained.

"I'd like to thank the court, and Joe, and the judge for being diligent on this," he said.

Revenues generated

Based on current projections and tax rates, Marion County will collect the following revenue enhancement through 2047:

• Marion County Extension Office: $647,881     

• Marion County Fiscal Court general fund: $1,365,940     

• Marion County Health Board: $375,947     

• Marion County Public Library: $721,818

• Marion County Airport Board: $137,847     

• Marion County Board of Education: $6,340,968

TOTAL: $9,590,401