News Articles

1A Auto seeks incentives in Pepperell

By Anne O'Connor,
February 18, 2015

PEPPERELL -- Without an override, Pepperell has a $400,000 budget shortfall for the next fiscal year.

Selectman Michael Green supplied that figure during a meeting with the North Middlesex Regional School Committee Finance Subcommittee last week. Town Administrator Mark Andrews repeated it during Tuesday's Board of Selectmen meeting.

At the moment, the town has $22.3 million in expenses but only $21.9 million in projected revenue for fiscal 2016, which begins July 1, Andrews said.

But things could soon be looking up.

1A Auto, owned by Green's family and one of the largest sellers of aftermarket auto parts, purchased a former paper mill site on Mill Street last year.

The company intends to build a new $25 million headquarters with office and call-center space on the site, said Preston Farrington, 1A Auto's chief financial officer.

"We need to make sure it's an economically feasible option," he said.

Costs for developing the site are at a premium because the mill was razed only to ground level, not below, Farrington said. 1A Auto wishes to remain in Pepperell, if feasible.

The company plans to add an additional 150 full-time permanent jobs to the 95 it already has, he said. Currently, the company puts more than $500,000 every year into the local economy through employee purchases and taxes.

"If we go forward, that number may grow to over $2 million annually," he said.

1A will be looking at potential incentives, said Lynn Tokarczyk, a government incentive consultant with Business Development Strategies Inc.

The project would increase Pepperell's tax base and encourage other businesses to expand, she said. It would tie in nicely with the town's economic development plan.

The town already has experience with tax incentives, she said. In 2008 and 2012, it worked with Masy Systems, a Lomar Park-based provider of validation and calibration services for companies that need to store sensitive equipment under regulated conditions.

The tax-increment financing program 1A will approach the town about is based on the new assessed value of the site. The town would not lose any taxes by taking part.

The town can offer tax incentives for five to 20 years and from 1 to 100 percent, Tokarczyk said. The average minimum is 5 percent.

The company can also qualify for state tax incentives.

1A should have a draft proposal by the end of the week. After a team reviews the proposal, selectmen would need to recommend it so that the proposal can go on the Town Meeting warrant, she said.

If approved at Town Meeting, the state will need to give the final approval of the tax incentive.

"It sounds like a win-win," said Selectman Stephen Themelis. "I'm all ears. I love to see this investment in our community."

Green formally announced at the beginning of the meeting that he will not run for re-election. One reason was the need to recuse himself from discussion on his family's business project.

Town meeting is scheduled for May 4 at 7:30 p.m. at the Nissitissit Middle School.

Follow Anne O'Connor on Twitter and Tout @a1oconnor.