Employment outlook said strong in Berne

    A rosy employment picture was laid out before Berne City Council on Monday evening, with three local industries reporting strong sales and an optimistic outlook for the future.
    Representatives from two of those companies — Smith Brothers and Key Fasteners — were on hand for the annual review of existing tax abatement agreements with the city. And both were found to have met or exceeded capital improvement expenditures laid out in their original abatement applications.
    David Burson on Smith Brothers said the company currently employs more than 300 workers as it wraps up the second phase of an expansion project started in 2010. "Sales are really good for Smith Brothers," Burson said.
    Another success story, albeit a few years behind schedule, was laid out by John Johnson from Key Fasteners. The Berne production plant makes wheel nuts for Honda automobiles, and officials there had first applied for tax abatement assistance several years ago. Since that time, Johnson said, the plant expansion was sidelined first by the national recession and later by a tsunami that struck Japan, where the company is based.
    But Johnson told the council members that January, February and March of this year "are the three best months we've ever had as a company, and we are very excited."
    Key Fasteners currently employs 79 workers, but Johnson said the company hopes to exceed its prediction of 86 hourly employees "by this time next year."
    And a third local business is investing in the future of Berne, council members learned Monday. Tyler Kitt, representing EP Graphics Inc., appeared before the lawmakers to request preliminary approval of a new 10-year tax abatement plan for the company's $6 million expansion and renovation project.
    Larry Macklin, executive director of the Adams County Economic Development Corp., asked the council for its acceptance of a declaratory resolution to establish an Economic Revitalization Area at the EP Graphics site for the project that will retain 70 current jobs and add 10 new workers.
    Kitt said it is "no secret" that the printing industry is facing its share of economic hard times. EP Graphics, he said, is perhaps best known as a publisher of magazines and catalogs. "But we are hoping to expand our offerings to become more competitive and efficient, and we think we can add jobs in the process."
    The council approved the declaratory resolution for EP Graphics' tax abatement request. A public hearing will be held at the April 23 city council meeting and, barring substantial opposition from the public, final approval of the abatement is expected.