decatur-logo1The city council in Decatur, Ind., bent over backwards earlier this month to seal the deal to keep Fleetwood RV’s motorized operations in business in Decatur under new ownership.

The purchase was announced late Friday (July 17).

As reported by the Decatur Daily Democrat, the American Investment Partners (AIP) purchase of the Fleetwood Enterprises properties in Decatur took a giant step closer to completion on July 7 when the Decatur City Council quickly and without hesitation granted the company the first step of what will lead to a 10-year tax abatement on equpment it will be bringing to the buildings in Decatur.

The preliminary granting of the abatement was termed the “deal sealer” by officials working with AIP. Final approval of the abatement is expected by the end of this month.

The state of Indiana has also put together an incentive package to support the AIP purchase.

The Decatur City Council had only supportive words for the New York-based firm’s purchase and subsequent move into Decatur. It will be bringing approximately $15 million in equipment (legally called personal property) here, and is virtually certain to receive a 10-year tax abatement.

The council bent its own rules in doing do. Normally, the city grants only five-year abatements on personal property and 10 years on buildings. “But as has been said here tonight (July 7), these are extraordinary times,” Mayor John Schultz said. “This will be a change from what we’ve done in the past, but I don’t think we have much choice.”

Under Indiana law, the equipment must come from outside Indiana to be eligible for a tax abatement.

On a unanimous 5-0 vote, the council approved a declaratory resolution and even went so far as to unanimously agree to support a tax abatement for the Gold Shield building should one be sought later.

Adams County Economic Development Director Larry Macklin was the first speaker at the July 7 meeting, asking for support of the tax abatement and adding, “This is huge … we are in competition with other communities.”

Riverside, Calif., home to Fleetwood Enterprises Inc., was cited as one of the competing communities.

He said he has been working with state officials to put together the incentive package now being offered. “We need to open our arms and embrace AIP,” he added.

Macklin introduced Mark Soltys, with RSM McGladrey, an accounting, tax and business consulting firm based in Elkhart, Ind. Soltys, who represents AIP, praised “the tremendous job” Macklin has done in working with him, and pointed to the current “extraordinary times” for manufacturers.

He said granting the abatement and subsequent closing of the deal “will retain jobs locally and new jobs as well – good paying jobs.”

Of the tax abatement, he said, it “will surely make a difference” in getting AIP to close the deal.

Following Soltys was Steve Heim, an official with Fleetwood for many years, including the last 13 in Decatur. “You really have an asset here … the people of this community,” Heim told the council and the mayor. He spoke of the local workforce’s “devotion, commitment, work ethic and industriousness.”

Mayor Schultz asked if the tax abatement related to only “the RV industry,” and was informed that that was correct.

But there is “the potential for Gold Shield in the future” to seek an abatement,” Soltys noted.

“This is our chance to show our support for the Fleetwood employees” and some suppliers, such as Alberding Woodworking and Habegger Abbey Floors, Councilman Ken Meyer said.

Councilwoman Barb Engle then moved to grant the declaratory resolution and Councilman Bill Crone seconded, followed by a 5-0 vote. Another 5-0 vote expressed support for Gold Shield, should a tax abatement be sought for it at a later date.