As economic engines go, the Kawasaki plant in Maryville, Missouri, has few rivals.
This thought is not lost on anyone observing what has become of a factory that first opened in 1989 with 150 workers producing a single model of its product — an actual small engine.
Now, 29 years and about a dozen plant expansions later, the workforce has swelled to more than 800 employees. At last report, the plant produces around 18 different general purpose engines.
The plant turned out its 10 millionth engine last fall.
All of this is cause for appreciation in a community anchored in slow-growth Northwest Missouri. Chamber and civic leaders would be excused if they could imagine nothing more impactful on the industrial sector of the local economy.
Excused, perhaps, but pleasantly short-sighted.
The news this week is that Kawasaki Motors Manufacturing is expanding again with the help of city-approved tax incentives. This is the story of a partnership that has only grown stronger over the years.
As News-Press Now reported, Kawasaki plans to invest $26 million in its facility to add three production lines and replace older equipment. By the end of next year, the plant will add 30 jobs on top of the 30 created from a similar project from 2015.
The City Council has approved industrial development bonds to fund the improvements. The company qualifies for a 50 percent tax abatement for a 10-year period on new equipment purchased. Kawasaki, in turn, has agreed to make payments in lieu of taxes equal to slightly more than $1 million over the 10-year bond period.
This means that while Kawasaki expands it also will be benefitting the community. The school district, the city, the public library and the sheltered workshop all are among the entities that will receive new revenues from the payments
“In total, it’s about $51 million in investments and 60 new jobs (from both bonds). They’re a tremendous partner,” said Greg McDanel, Maryville’s city manager.
Kawasaki also has agreed to retain existing jobs, with a minimum employment of 850 workers after the project is completed.
There will be those who point out that, without the approved incentives, the tax revenue accruing to the community would be about double. However, as McDanel properly noted, a company the size of Kawasaki has options.
And without incentives, deals do not always go through — and new industrial jobs do not necessarily get created.