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Packaging Concepts opts to relocate to Green Park instead of Illinois site

With $10 million in assistance from St. Louis County, a company located in the city has opted to set up shop in Green Park instead of moving to Illinois.

A Wisconsin corporation, Packaging Concepts has been doing business in St. Louis for 22 years, but recently decided to close its doors at two plants, located on South Jefferson and Fyler avenues, and make the move to south county.

The 32-year-old company, which specializes in the production of popcorn packaging for movie theaters, was looking for a sizable piece of property, County Councilman John Campisi, R-south county, told the Call.

Pieces of property in Illinois and at the Green Park Commerce Center seemed ideal for the company's needs, he said.

The two areas ended up competing for Packaging Concepts to move to their respective locations, he said — which resulted in a financial package Packaging Concepts couldn't refuse.

The County Council voted unanimously June 8 to authorize the issuance of no more than $10 million in its taxable industrial revenue bonds to fund Packaging Concepts' project and move to Green Park. The $10 million will fund acquiring, construction and equipping costs for the Green Park facility.

Reconstructing, repairing, altering, extending and equipping costs of a 123,500 square-foot facility located on a 6.99-acre tract in Green Park are approved uses for the $10 million, under legislation approved by councilmen last week.

The county will lease the project site, the project improvements and project equipment to Packaging Concepts in concordance with a 15-year lease agreement. The lease agreement ends 15 calendar years following the completion of project construction.

The lease agreement was approved April 1 and construction is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2004.

Rental payments made by Packaging Concepts will be applied to pay the debt service on the Series 2004 bonds issued by the county.

Introduced three months ago, the legislation authorizing the issuance of the bonds for Packaging Concepts was not approved until June 8 because the company needed time to produce and gather the appropriate financial paperwork, according to Campisi.

Campisi said he is pleased that Packaging Concepts did not pull the project and go with an Illinois location because the Green Park plant should employ at least 300 people. About two-thirds of those positions will be filled from people transferring from the closed plants, he said, while 100 positions will be new and need to be filled.

"They'll be looking to Green Park and south county to fill those extra jobs," he said.

While the Green Park Board of Aldermen did not publicly oppose or support the Packaging Concepts development, Ward 1 Alderman Judy Betlach told the Call that keeping the company in the St. Louis area is an "excellent way to save some of the jobs that otherwise would have been lost."

Company officials also had indicated to aldermen that they would be more than willing to participate and involve themselves in community activities, Betlach added.

However, some aldermen and other taxing entities opposed the county's involvement with the company's move to the Green Park Commerce Center, she noted.

"... There are a lot of vacancies in the Green Park Commerce Center," she said. "There was some concern that since not all of them were receiving that type of assistance ... we didn't want to set a precedent. Other than that, we had no problem with it."

Campisi said he supported the county's role in Packaging Concepts' move because of the economic benefits the plant will bring to the county.

"This is a great company that was thinking about moving to either Illinois or the south county area ...," the 6th District councilman told the Call. "They chose the south county area because it's a nice area. They chose south county because they like the package we gave them to help them move. They're going to employ up to 300 people and they are one of the biggest packagers of popcorn bags for the United States.

"I saw the company as a valuable company that could possibly expand further and possibly employ more jobs in the future."

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