September 22, 2014

Mistequay approved for property tax relief

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STANDISH — The Standish City Council granted the tool and die manufacturer Mistequay Group Ltd. property tax relief for five years Thursday night at its regular monthly meeting.

Having the city waive its property taxes, which equal roughly $13,000 per year, is one of the many criterion that Mistequay had to meet under the Michigan Tool and Die Recovery Act, which now allows the company to have state taxes waived as well now that city council approved the exemption.

“Bottom line is were trying to save jobs here in Standish,” said Mistequay Vice President Sherry Carpenter. “We are literally trying to survive.”

According to Carpenter, Mistequay Group currently employs 31, has the ability to make it through the economic downturn with the tax-exemption and possibly, if there’s a turnaround, to grow the Standish operation, its largest facility in the Mistequay family at 50,000 square feet.

“This will allow us to increase man power as well as add new equipment,” she said. “Within the next year or 18 months, we fully expect to ramp up the head count.”

Cynthia Eaton, an employee of the Standish manufacturer, said that from the beginning, the company has shown the potential to grow quickly. Eaton says in its first two years of being open in Standish, the company boomed from 13 to about 60 employees.

Prior to making the deal with Mistequay, which allows the city to start phasing in property tax payments after two years of taxes being totally waived, members of city council showed caution in granting the company’s request, which will only guarantee it tax-free status if the state also approves the property tax exemption.

“If we weren’t ourselves facing an almost $200,000 deficit… to me it’d be really easy to cater to you,” said council member Richard Vollbach. “We would be adding that, immediately, your relief, to our deficit instead of reducing it.

“Talk about poor timing.”

Mayor Kevin King asked about the property tax exemption not working as Carpenter planned.

“What would happen if we granted it and you still picked up and moved shop?” he said.

“The tax-free status is to Mistequay in Standish,” said consultant to Mistequay, Margaret O’Riley. “If the facility goes away, the tax-free status goes away.”

Vollbach added that real property taxes would be owed were the facility to close.

Mistequay Plant Controller Alan Ziegler assured council that the jobs currently in Standish could be handled by a Mistequay Group plant elsewhere.

“We could easily put 28 people in our Saginaw facility and cut management,” Ziegler said. “I don’t mean for it to sound so cruel. … The trickle down effect can be tremendous.”

Backing up Ziegler’s statement, Eaton also pointed out that she spends roughly $3,000 per year in Standish on breakfast and lunches alone, adding other employees probably do the same, while also buying gas and groceries in town.

King, prior to voting to grant the relief, also wanted to know if Mistequay had done all it could to avoid absolutely needing its property taxes waived. He asked if the company had cut hours and wages, or moved people from full-time to part-time.

Carpenter said with the current production output, laying off more employees would only slow recovery.

The motion to grant the property tax exemption for five years was made by council member Clark Sanford.

“I don’t want to see jobs leave this town anymore,” he said. “I’d roll the dice.”

The motion passed unanimously.

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