Automotive engineering

Topline Automotive Engineering, Inc. plans to relocate Michigan and Illinois facilities to Brooksville

At the BOCC meeting held on Tuesday, December 14, County Commissioners debated whether to approve significant new incentives designed to reward Topline Automotive Engineering, Inc. for its planned consolidation and relocation of assets out of the state that would bring well-paying jobs to the county. Topline is a leading automotive parts supplier for foreign and domestic models that operates distribution centers in the United States and Canada, including a 210,000 square foot facility the company built in 2009 that is located at 2251 Topline Way on the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport Railroad. to park. The company also markets patented Topline Hy-Lift Johnson engine lifters.

Topline’s consolidation plans include consolidating and relocating its Michigan and Illinois sites to Brooksville. The consolidation would create 60 new manufacturing jobs over a three-year period that pay 125% of the county’s Average Annual Wage (AAW) of $45,936. The company also expects to spend around $8.6 million on the capital investment.

Specifically, the new job incentive proposal being discussed would see the county pay Topline $6,200 per new job created at 125% of the county’s AAW payable over a five-year period. The county would also defer approximately $30,000 in licensing and examination fees over a seven-year period for a total cost of $402,000 spread over the seven-year agreement. Hernando’s chief economics officer, Valerie Pianta, told commissioners the funding was covered by existing economic development incentive funds.

“They’re taking those jobs from Illinois and Michigan — if we can take business from those two states, that’s great. They can move to Florida and pay taxes here – that’s a positive,” commissioner chairman Steve Champion said.

Pianta, who presented the incentive agreement, appeared to have commissioners on board until the conversation turned to a proposed ground lease agreement. A second proposed amendment to the current ground lease agreement with Topline failed to produce consensus. Although reducing the size of Topline’s lease for the property in the railyard from 14 acres to approximately nine was not a deciding factor, the agreement as proposed would also have given Topline the right of first refusal on the remaining area.

Topline facility in Brooksville

“The proposed agreement that calls for the county to waive the right is very dangerous,” said Champion, who indicated he would not vote for the “right of first refusal” portion of the lease reduction amendment, adding that this could lead to the county being “underpriced”.

Commissioner Jeff Holcomb agreed with Champion’s analysis that such a deal would give Topline too much control over the potential lease of the county property. For her part, Commissioner Elizabeth Narverud said: “I don’t think this is the right way to manage this property.

Just when things started to go south, Topline CEO and Founder Chet Staron, who was in attendance, spoke from the guest podium and said the company didn’t need any help. ‘about five acres but would not require the ‘first right of refusal’ which set the commissioners back on course for consensus.

The proposal will be redrafted to exclude the “first right of refusal” and will then be returned to the BOCC for approval.