Economic incentives considered for major employers planning improvements

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Multi-million dollar improvement and expansion projects at Topeka’s Mars Chocolate Plant and an unnamed company were to be considered for economic incentives tonight. Late Wednesday afternoon KSNT News learned that incentives for Goodyear, the unnamed company, will not be on tonight’s agenda.

Topeka and Shawnee County’s Joint Economic Development Organization (JEDO) are to consider hundreds of thousands for the companies. “Project Storm” is the code name for the Mars deal which notes the company will consider an additional $100 million dollar investment in the Topeka plant. That means another 70 jobs. Code names are often used to protect sensitive economic projects in the works until an agreement is finalized or signed. JEDO will consider $260,000 in investment incentives for Mars.

“Project Mare” on JEDO’s agenda does not name the company, but it’s most likely Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. JEDO’s agenda reveals the company named in “Project Mare” has already invested $250 million its Topeka facility and are considering an additional $184 million investment. GO Topeka is asking JEDO to approve an additional $368,000 in investment incentives for the company.

Five years ago, Goodyear announced it would spend $250 million modernizing its Topeka’s plant, making it the likely company named in JEDO’s “Project Mare”. At that time in the summer of 2009, the company said the money would allow it to make capital investments and help it provide nearly 1,400 jobs in Northeast Kansas for another decade. The state provided nearly $14 million in incentives for that modernization. Still reeling from the “Great Recession” that began the year before, Senator Laura Kelly (D) said then that lawmakers were initially reluctant to pass the deal, but others worked hard to get it approved.

Goodyear’s corporate offices sent KSNT News the following statement, acknowledging incentive discussions with GO Topeka, an organization charged with creating and stimulating economic growth in the Capital City and county. However, the company’s VP of North America Communications reveals that Goodyear has been pulled from tonight’s JEDO agenda.

“…while we have been in discussions with GO Topeka on the extension of Goodyear’s incentive agreement, nothing has been finalized. In fact, it was determined that it would be premature to address this item at tonight’s meeting so it will not be on the agenda.” –Laura Duda, Vice President, North America Communications

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