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Riffle launches another plant expansion

By Chris Balusik, Chillicothe Gazette
Published Feb. 22, 2016

Work on new 100,000-square-foot building to begin in March

CHILLICOTHE - Riffle Machine Works is expanding again.

Chris Manegold, CEO of the Economic Development Alliance of Southern Ohio, appeared Monday on behalf of the company before Ross County Commissioners seeking approval of a 10-year, 50-percent tax abatement to construct a third 100,000-square-foot structure on the Riffle campus off Ohio 159. The expansion, which would initially be primarily used for warehouse space in anticipation of its use for future growth, is expected to bring an additional 10 jobs in its earliest uses.

Both Manegold and County Commissioner Jim Caldwell noted that the company, whose primary business involves assembly of exhausts and polishing parts for trucking companies but which has diversified into other automotive areas as its customer base has grown, has regularly delivered more than its job creation estimates.

The project will involved a $2.9 million investment for construction of the facility with about an additional $100,000 initially in fixtures and other items for the building. As future opportunities are pursued, that is expected to change.

"There will be more coming down the road, but right now they need the space. Their production is going gangbusters and they just need this for elbow room and they predict future growth," Manegold said. "There will be more attached to this."

Company officials were unable to join Manegold at Monday's meeting, sending their apologies to commissioners as they were locked down with visitors they had to attend to. The company did release a brief statement about the expansion.

Riffle was founded in 1980 and had just three original employees, but the business grew significantly when it received its first assemblyline project with Kenworth Truck Co. around 18 years ago. It won approval for a 50,000-square-foot facility on Riffle's current campus in 2007 that was expanded in 2011 to 100,000 square feet.

Then it constructed Riffle 2, another 100,000-square-foot facility, on the campus in 2013. Each expansion has come with job growth, from the slightly more than 30 employees when the 50,000-square-foot facility was constructed to the 205 employees Manegold said the company had as of two weeks ago.

Abatements have helped with the growth. The company received a 40 percent tax break on $1.6 million from the 2007 project that expires in 2018 and a 55 percent abatement on another almost $1.1 million. It also was awarded a 55 percent abatement for 10 years in 2013 for construction of Riffle 2.

After clarifying some language in the abatement application that will be sent to the state, commissioners Jim Caldwell and Steve Neal approved the abatement request Monday with commissioner Doug Corcoran absent. The Green Township Board of Trustees approved the request last week, while notification letters were sent to the Zane Trace Local Schools and PickawayRoss Joint Vocational School, which each receive tax dollars from Riffle.

Under terms of the abatement, Ross County will receive about $5,885 in taxes annually for 10 years on the new construction. Zane Trace will receive $12,172, PickawayRoss $1,593, Green Township $2,058, Green Township excluding Kingston $609, the ChillicotheRoss County Public Library system $744 and Paint Valley ADAMH $496. With the abatement at 50 percent, the company will realize an annual tax savings of $17,672.

Manegold praised the foresight of the company for anticipating future expansions and acquiring the land necessary early on to prepare for it. He also said company officials in the past worked with the Ohio Department of Transportation to improve access and egress to the campus to ensure smoother and safer traffic flow.

"This (company) is like the Energizer bunny, they just keep going and going," Manegold said prior to the meeting.

Caldwell made a similar comment during the meeting.

"It's a good example of a local company starting very small that was there at the right time and did what was necessary to get business," Caldwell said.

Manegold said he was not privy to more specific plans for the new structure, which a company statement said will see construction beginning the first week of March, but noted eyes are "on the horizon."

"When Katy Farber (of the Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth) and I met with them a few weeks ago, there will be other things coming with regards to that building," Manegold said.

The company said principal construction should be completed by December and that it looks forward to future growth opportunities.

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