Waco City Council on Tuesday approved $4.3 million in city-county incentives to help relocate and expand the Sherwin-Williams paint distribution center and the new Balcones Distilling plant.

If county commissioners follow suit next month, Sherwin-Williams will get $4 million from the Waco-McLennan County Economic Development Corp. fund to build a $39 million distribution center on Concord Road. That would be the second-biggest contribution from the fund since it started in 1997, topped only by the $5 million the Baylor Research Innovation Collaborative received six years ago.

County commissioners are set to vote on the incentives Nov. 3. Sherwin-Williams officials were growing out of their leased facility at 2700 Texas Central Parkway and decided to entertain offers from several cities for a new location. The distribution center serves most of Texas and surrounding states.

Waco’s incentive offer was a “key” consideration in the decision to stay put, as was the skill of the existing workforce, Sherwin-Williams regional vice president Francis X. Huppman said.

“Our intention is to stay in Waco because of the culture and a workforce that’s extremely dedicated and loyal,” he said. Under the deal, Sherwin-Williams will retain at least 264 full-time workers for the next decade.

The high incentive amount partly reflected the company’s commitments to employment, wages and investment, said Kris Collins, senior vice president for economic development at the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce. Another factor was that Waco was competing against other communities, she said.

Collins said city and business leaders realized that it is important for Waco that the company stays here and grows here.

“It means retaining 264 really good jobs, and also a great seasonal workforce, spring through fall,” she said. “It also has a significant spinoff effect. They use a lot of local vendors in their operation.”

Mayor Malcolm Duncan Jr. saluted the Waco economic development team for retaining Sherwin- Williams.

‘Keep in Waco’

“This is a company we really want to keep in Waco,” he said. “With their values, and their commitment to quality over the long period they’ve been in business, this is something we should be proud of.”

The new 600,000-square-foot center will be between Sanderson Farms and L-3 Communications in the Waco International Aviation Park.

The council Tuesday also agreed to give $300,000 to Balcones Distilling for its relocation to the four-story Texas Fireproof Storage building at 225 S. 11th St.

Balcones, which is a star in the burgeoning craft whiskey world, is struggling to meet demand for its spirits, now made in a small building under the 18th Street bridge. The incentives were calculated based on the gradual expansion from 13 to 25 jobs, and on $12.5 million in real estate and equipment investment.

“We’re actually spending $15 million,” Balcones president and chief operating officer Keith Bellinger said. Retrofitting the old warehouse cost the company some $4 million more than building a distillery from scratch, but company leaders wanted a distinctive downtown building, he said.

“We love Waco, we believe in the history, and we’re all about quality and authenticity,” he said. “We just thought this building brings through what this company is all about.”

He said the $300,000 spurred the company to invest more in the aesthetic appeal of the building and its first-floor retail store, which will sell spirits, clothing, glasses and other merchandise.

“It does allow us to focus more on the tourism side,” Bellinger said.

“We feel very strongly about downtown, with Magnolia Market just around the corner and attractions like the Dr Pepper Museum. We’re big about tourism and helping the city attract more tourists.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, Councilman John Kinnaird said he was excited to support incentives for “the repurposing of a historic building for a national brand.”

Duncan agreed that the project will be a draw to Waco.

“I think this is a really good addition to downtown,” he said. “I’m really excited about the tourist potential.”

The economic development fund is supported by equal contributions from the county and city, both of which must approve its expenditures. The total contributions increased in this fiscal year from $2.5 million to $3 million.

Both Balcones and Sherwin-Williams also will get tax abatements as construction incentives. Over five years, Balcones will pay $292,950 in city property taxes and save $204,650.

Sherwin-Williams will get a $1.78 million tax abatement over 10 years, while the city will receive $676,870 in revenue during that period.

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