GREENVILLE — The Greenville City Council took several steps in welcoming China-based aluminum wheel manufacturer Dicastal North American Inc. to town by paving the way for grant money and drawing up a development agreement.
Approved Tuesday night by the council, which will act as the fiduciary for the $5 million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding, the grant money is designated toward the purchase of the two former United Solar Ovonic (USO) buildings and 97 acres of land.
In exchange for funneling the grant funds through the city, Dicastal will be required to follow a timeline of hiring certain numbers of employees (110) and investing a certain amount of funds ($139,616,538) in the first two years.
Funds will not be provided to Dicastal until these requirements are met.
“The company only gets the money when they create the jobs that are outlined in the agreement,” City Manager George Bosanic emphasized.
To help administer the grant, the council hired engineering firm Rowe Engineering of Mount Pleasant to serve as administrator for the $5 million.
“These $5-million grants aren’t given out every day,” said Bosanic, noting the absence of an assistant city manager makes administering the grant tough on city staff.
The contract with Rowe is for just more than $38,000, which comes from the CDBG grant funds.
The city also entered into a development agreement with Dicastal which outlines payments in lieu of taxes ($70,000 for eight years) and outlines terms in which the city will be paid back of the terms of the grant are not met.
“We and the state of Michigan have learned our lesson as far as development agreements with companies,” said Bosanic, adding he was confident in Dicastal’s intentions.
“This is a company that has big plans,” he said. “We expect them to be here for a very, very long time.”
Part of those plans were presented by Dicastal General Manager Bernard Polzin to council Tuesday night.
“Our plan is to transform the Unisolar plant into the world’s No. 1 aluminum wheel manufacturer,” Polzin said.
Those plans include a transformation of the two USO buildings as well as several additions, including one that will connect the two buildings.
Additions are set to begin being built from April to December 2015 and production trials could begin as early as September 2015.
Dale Hadel, director of business development for Dicastal, said the plans are for the company to be fully operational by the first quarter of 2016.
The nearly $140-million investment by Dicastal will make Greenville the company’s first home in North America. It has 17 other facilities across the world.
The two main customers of the Greenville plant, which will produce about 8,500 aluminum wheels per day, will be General Motors and Honda.