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Just weeks after General Mills announced plans to close a Pillsbury plant in New Albany, Ind., the Midwest town’s leaders are weighing a novel idea: Pay for the company to stay.

New Albany’s mayor and administration put forward the idea to offer General Mills a $7 million bond to stay in town, according to Daniel Suddeath, a reporter for the News and Tribune, the town’s newspaper.

The terms of the bond are still in the works, but it would allow General Mills to expand and upgrade the town’s plant. In exchange, the company would have to keep the plant open for at least another three years, Suddeath said.

“We have assembled a business retention and factory-modernization package for our friends at General Mills to consider,” New Albany Mayor Jeff Gahan stated in a news release, as reported by the News and Tribune. “Our goal is to keep the New Albany facility in continuous operation for as long as possible.”

New Albany officials believe the city can afford the package.

"The city is submitting what we believe to be a competitive incentive package," New Albany city councilman Scott Blair said in the release. "What we are offering, we feel like we can reasonably afford."

The idea was scheduled to go before New Albany’s city council on Tuesday evening, though a vote would only allow the city to move forward with the proposal. 

It would next go to the New Albany Redevelopment Commission, which would put together a financial plan and gather the details before returning the bond proposal to the city council for a final vote, Suddeath said.

And even if the bond makes it through all three steps, there’s no guarantee General Mills will approve it, he added. The company hasn’t given any clue whether the bond will convince them to stay.

Still, the town residents who work at the plant are supportive of the plan, Suddeath said.

Some are skeptical of the idea, though.

Josh Pinkston, assistant professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Louisville's College of Business, said such incentive packages may not pay off through higher tax revenue.

In a story by David A. Mann of Louisville Business First, Pinkston questioned whether the New Albany approach makes good sense.

"They're just handing a company a pile of money," Pinkston told Louisville Business First. "If that's a good idea … why just General Mills? Why not hand out a big pot of money for other companies in New Albany?"

Pinkston said the package is, in effect, political risk management, as city leaders don’t want General Mills to leave on their watch.

When asked if Lodi would consider such a plan, Mayor Bob Johnson said there would be a lot of research to be done before weighing in on the idea or even putting it on the table.

He couldn’t comment one way or the other “without looking into the mechanics of (a bond), the financing of it, what would be the backing behind it,” he said. However, he was interested in finding out more about New Albany’s plan, he said.

Contact reporter Kyla Cathey at kylac@lodinews.com.



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