Watchdog Report: Chill Can plant update following Anheuser-Busc - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Watchdog Report: Chill Can plant update following Anheuser-Busch deal

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -

Some Youngstown officials may be relieved tonight after a big announcement yesterday by a company building a manufacturing plant on the east side.

The owner of Chill Can says he's got a deal to produce cooling cans for Anheuser-Busch.

But the plant isn't built yet, and a lot of tax dollars are tied up in a project that is running seriously behind schedule.

When we last visited the site of the Chill Can plant along Himrod Avenue in March, it didn't look like much after crews broke ground nearly three years ago.

City leaders, we talked to, say while Tuesday's announcement is encouraging, the sense of urgency is growing.

"We haven't had an economic development project deal since (Mayor) Tito Brown took office and that's cause for concern by itself," says Fifth Ward City Councilwoman Lauren McNally, who also chairs the finance committee. "To have 20 acres of quality business land sitting idle right now is something we can't afford."

"For this project to move as slowly as it's been moving, it does raise a couple of red flags," added First Ward councilman Julius Oliver. "It makes you want to investigate and look and see what's going on."

So 21 News did, and here's what we found.

So far, the city has poured nearly $2 million into the project, including a $1.5 million grant pulled from business development, sanitation, water, and wastewater funds.

There's also nearly $400,000 to acquire property on the site and a ten year 75 percent tax abatement.

All of that is in the 71-page agreement along with deadlines that the Joseph company hasn't met.

"This has been a lot harder than we thought," said Youngstown native and Joseph Company International CEO Mitchell Joseph. "In tearing down those houses, we learned a lot about infrastructure for wiring and plumbing and heating. We should've left some of that on site, and we didn't."

"With construction and site development work that needed to be done prior to that, we understand that there are some delays," added Youngstown Economic Development Director T. Sharon Woodberry.

Given all the missed deadlines, the city does have the option to go to court to take the land back, but no one from the city we talked to thinks that's a good idea.

"I think we still have a quality relationship with the company and I think he is making progress there. But there does have to come a point where the administration is going to ask itself how long can we let this go on for," said McNally.

Joseph admitted some logistical snags but stressed that the focus is now 100 percent on Youngstown.

"We're looking to have building one finished in the fall and have some kind of light distribution and production by the end of the fourth quarter," Joseph said Wednesday.

With construction on building three set to ramp up in earnest this fall, there are small but tangible signs that Youngstown will soon be popping the top on a new economic venture.

In the meantime, 21 News will be checking back in with Joseph to see how his timeline is coming together.

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