Anniston city leaders approved tax breaks for North American Bus Industries Monday to help with its $13 million expansion here.
The Anniston City Council voted for the 10-year sales, use and property tax abatement during its Monday meeting. The expansion, which is underway, will not create new jobs but will allow the heavy-duty transit bus manufacturer to build a new model.
Canada-based bus maker New Flyer, which bought NABI last year, announced in June that it will phase out production of the Anniston plant's current two bus models and produce a different model there instead. The change is part of a company-wide strategy to produce only a single bus design to improve efficiency. NABI has been adding more equipment and restructuring its production line to accommodate the new model ever since.
"They have other plants ... but they chose to build their New Flyer bus line here," said Mayor Vaughn Stewart. "That speaks volumes as far as their commitment to Anniston."
According to city finance department figures, the city will lose $393,695 in sales, use and property taxes over the next 10 years due to the abatement.
"We appreciate the support of the city that was shown here tonight," said Brian Dewsnup, vice president and general manager of NABI, who attended the meeting.
New Flyer officials have said they will invest $20 million in the company-wide strategy, $13 million of which is for the expansion at NABI. However, New Flyer also announced in June that the changes will result in fewer employees needed at NABI. The company will reduce its workforce over the next two years mainly through retirements, attrition and redeployment.
NABI currently has 703 employees and produces approximately 600 buses per year.
Specifically, New Flyer wants NABI to produce the Xcelsior, its latest generation of low-floor buses, starting in the second half of 2015. The Xcelsior comes in a variety of propulsion options including diesel, natural gas, diesel-electric hybrid, electric-trolley and battery electric only. The press release states focusing on one bus model will help the manufacturer avoid redundant product upgrade costs and duplicate infrastructure support.
"We now have access to a new bus model that's easier to design," Dewsnup said of the Xcelsior.
Dewsnup said the plan is to have the new buses rolling off the assembly line late in the second quarter of 2015.
Don Hopper, executive director of the Calhoun County Economic Development Council, who attended the meeting, said NABI's expansion work will help him in recruiting industry.
"We spend a lot of time recruiting industry and our best recruiting tool is existing companies that are growing," Hopper said.
Also during the meeting, the council appointed eight residents to the Anniston Museum of Natural History board and another five residents to the Long Leaf Botanical Garden board. Those board members will later appoint some of their own members to the Museum Complex board, which oversees the Anniston museum, the garden and the Berman Museum.
The council made the museums a city department earlier this year at the request of the complex board. Over the last several months, the city has been reorganizing the museum boards to improve their effectiveness and ensure local government stays out of their daily operations and money.
"We want to be in a support role," Stewart said of the museums. "The museum started in the community and I think it should remain in the community."
The council also reviewed proposed changes to its business license rates for all business sectors in the city. The council plans to vote on the changes at its next meeting.