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Puritan Magnetics offers $300K for village site

Village sets April 8 hearing for proposed industrial tax exemption district

Puritan Magnetics employee Scott Force, of Oxford, works on a rotating drum magnet on the shop floor at the company's 900 S. Glaspie St. facility. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
February 19, 2014 - Potential buyers for a piece of Oxford Village-owned property are multiplying.

Last week, Puritan Magnetics, Inc. submitted a letter of intent for the purchase of 98 S. Glaspie St.

Located at 900 S. Glaspie St., Puritan Magnetics offered $300,000 for the former industrial site consisting of approximately 3˝ acres of land and a building that's approximately 22,000 square feet in size.

"We would occupy all that space and then, our intent would be to add on and increase the space (given) the size of the property that's there," said Puritan President and Co-owner Al Crawshaw during his presentation to the village council. "That's what's so attractive is we can continue to grow."

Puritan's offer puts it in direct competition with Raven Engineering, Inc. Last month, Raven, located at 300 Adventure Lane in Oxford Township, submitted a letter of intent containing a $250,000 offer for the property.

It was the consensus of council that the village's negotiating team, consisting of Councilman Elgin Nichols, Manager Joe Young and Attorney Bob Davis, should meet with Puritan. The team's already been meeting with Raven.

Council last week voted 4-0 to have an appraisal of 98 S. Glaspie St. conducted for a price not to exceed $3,000.

Puritan manufactures a wide range of magnetic equipment for capturing, controlling and removing metal contaminants from products and processing systems.

"They're all engineered products, not off-the-shelf production-type equipment," Crawshaw said.

Puritan's products are for industrial uses such as food processing.

"All the food that you eat every single day goes through magnetic separation to make sure there's no fine metal particles in it," Crawshaw said.

Founded in 1995, Puritan moved to Oxford from Brighton in 2002. The company's first location was a 6,270-square-foot lease space at 465 S. Glaspie St. In 2008, it moved operations to a 9,600-square-foot lease space at 900 S. Glaspie St. Now, the company's looking to move again, but not too far.

"We're still trying to stay on Glaspie," Crawshaw told council. "We've been involved in a couple of attempted purchases (of) properties on Glaspie that didn't quite work out. Then, we saw that this was available, so we're very interested."

"We need more manufacturing space," Crawshaw told this reporter. "We don't have enough space here. It's pretty packed. A move is inevitable."

But Puritan is "trying to make this next move a permanent move," so its new home must have "enough room to expand."

"I can easily see us needing 30,000 (to) 40,000 square-feet down the road," he said. "We need more space now just for what we have, plus there's other equipment that we need to purchase to be able to do some things that we (currently) outsource."

Puritan is a growing company in a field where the competition is limited, but well-established.

"We've got like four true competitors and they've been in business for 50 to 60 years," Crawshaw said. "At 20 years old, we're the new kids on the block. We're always chipping away at their business."

Crawshaw said Puritan has an "extremely solid foundation" and does approximately $2.5 million in sales annually.

"We don't rely on any one industry," he said. "We're very, very diverse in what we do. So, things slow down in one spot, we're still busy in others. We're going to be in business for a long time."

Council was interested in learning more about Puritan's operations and the potential impact they could have on 98 S. Glaspie St. and the surrounding area.

For instance, Nichols asked what type of lubricants Puritan uses in its manufacturing processes.

"We don't use any," Crawshaw replied.

The main reason the village bought the property for $700,000 in March 2006 was because of its close proximity to the municipal water supply. Officials didn't want to risk another industrial user moving in and possibly contaminating the groundwater.

"There's nothing that we use that could contaminate the ground," Crawshaw told this reporter. "It's primarily all stainless steel products that we manufacture. We don't use any type of solvents or oils that are in machines, anything like that."

Councilwoman Sue Bossardet asked if there's any noise associated with Puritan's operations.

"No, we're pretty quiet," Crawshaw said. "No stamping . . . Basically, a sheet metal fabricating shop is what we are."

"It's primarily shearing pieces of metal, bending them and then, welding them into the equipment that we manufacture," he explained to this reporter.

Just as Raven did in its purchase offer, Puritan requested a 10-year tax abatement be part of the deal "in exchange for (the company's) investment and improvements to the deteriorated premises."

"(The building is) in pretty rough shape. It needs quite a bit of work," Crawshaw told council. "It's not suited for our use right now, but we would make a significant investment in it."

Council voted 4-0 to schedule a public hearing for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 8 regarding the proposed creation of an industrial facilities tax (IFT) exemption district at 98 S. Glaspie St. According to village Manager Joe Young, an IFT district must be established there in order for the village to even consider granting a tax abatement.

The idea of offering tax abatements didn't sit well with some local officials.

Oxford Township Supervisor Bill Dunn, who lives in the village, expressed his opposition the idea.

"I can't believe you guys are going to be trying to do this or even taking it under consideration," he told council.

To Dunn, the prospect of giving up tax revenue doesn't make sense when the village police department had to rely on $7,000 in donations from local business people to purchase three new in-car video-recording systems that the agency couldn't otherwise afford during the current fiscal year.

"We're considering giving tax abatements that's going to take money (away) from the police department," he said. "Not only the police department, (but the) library, fire and EMS, the township."

Given the village paid $700,000 for the property, Dunn believes it's adding insult to injury to have someone offer $250,000 or $300,000 for it, then request a tax break on top of it.

"It's like they come in and take your wallet, and then kick you in the gonads as they leave," he said. "I think it's awful."

Dunn noted that if the purchase price was higher, maybe an abatement could be considered. "I'm not totally against abatements, but when they come in and try to low-ball (you) . . . I would hold onto the property as long as you could," the supervisor said.

Nichols and Councilman Bryan Cloutier chimed in as well.

"I'm almost totally against abatements," Nichols said. "I never have believed in them. As you pointed out, it does take money from other areas. On the other hand, there's certain situations that do call for an abatement."

As far as the purchase price, Nichols noted he has "no intentions of giving this property away."

"I agree with Mr. Dunn completely," Cloutier said. "I'm not pro-tax abatement by any stretch of the imagination. I don't plan to change tonight or tomorrow or the next day."

That being said, Cloutier had no issue with scheduling a public hearing regarding the proposed IFT exemption district.

"That doesn't mean we're going to stamp approval," he said. "It doesn't necessarily mean it's supported."

Just as Raven did in its offer, Puritan's offer also contained a section that would allow the village to preserve the historic Smith Silo that sits on property. Both companies indicated the village would be allowed to remove the silo and repair/pave the area beneath it, all at the municipality's expense.

Smith silos are a part of Oxford history.

Founded in 1906 by Hiram Smith, inventor of the concrete stave silo, the Smith Silo Company sold its first one in 1909. Smith's son, Warren Smith, expanded the company and built it into one of the best-known concrete silo manufacturers in the Midwest.

Smith Silo moved to Oxford in 1930 to be close to its gravel source. The company was located at 98 S. Glaspie St. through the 1970s. In addition to the Glaspie property, a Smith silo still stands in Seymour Lake Township Park where it's used as a pavilion. A Smith Silo was donated to the Henry Ford museum in 1976.

"I like unique things like that," Crawshaw noted. "Even if the village didn't want it, we would see no reason to tear it down. I think it's pretty interesting. I know there's historic value there."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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