Bunge North America announced Thursday an $11.32 million expansion of its Market Street Northeast plant that will create 14 new jobs
The Industrial Development Board on Thursday approved the company’s request for a 10-year abatement of Decatur, state and Morgan County property taxes of $34,000 per year. It also approved an abatement of sales and use taxes during construction of an estimated $368,000.
The average wage of the new employees, who will be hired by 2017, will be $53,883 per employee, Bunge officials said. Bunge now has 187 employees at its Decatur plant.
Morgan County Economic Development Association President Jeremy Nails said the announcement is positive for the community because it is an investment in jobs.
“You always worry if a company doesn’t reinvest in existing facilities,” Nails said. “This announcement ensures that they’ll be around for many years to come.”
State law prohibits the abatement of educational taxes. Bunge officials estimated the expansion will generate $42,000 a year in property taxes for schools, which will go to the Decatur, Morgan County and Hartselle school districts. The three districts also will benefit from $46,000 in sales and use taxes, designated for education, during construction.
Bunge Facility Manager Gene Moore said the expansion will create three lines in the packaging department. Bunge is closing a plant in Illinois, and Moore said the expansion will be for products the Illinois plant currently makes.
“Those products have to be moved somewhere,” Moore said. “We would like for part of it to come here. We can’t handle all of it, but would like some of it.”
Bunge is an integrated soybean processor and refinery. It crushes soybeans, extracting the oil for use for animal feed ingredients, food manufacturers and biofuels. Moore said 30 percent of the plant’s soybeans are harvested locally, while the rest are transported by rail and barge from the Midwest.
“I often ask new employees if they’ve eaten today, and if they have, odds are they’ve eaten our products,” Moore said.
Moore said the expansion will not increase Bunge’s footprint, but instead will use existing space.
“We’ll basically be rearranging the inside of the building,” Moore said. “It will be mostly engineering for now and physical work after the first of the year.”
Moore said the expansion will have a “very minimum” impact on Church Street truck traffic.
“Incoming soybeans are mostly transported by rail and barge,” Moore said. “Outgoing products are mostly truck and rail.”
Moore said the Decatur crush plant is Bunge’s third-largest crush plant in the United States. The refinery department is the largest Bunge has in the U.S., he said.
Bunge purchased the original Decatur facility in 1981, began production in 1982 and added a refinery in 1998. Moore said Bunge’s most recent expansion was in 2010 when the company added its packaging plant, which started in 2013 and added 50 jobs.
The Decatur Daily - By: Leah Cayson