Auto accessory plant to drive off with 300 jobs after idling 5 y - KMOV.com

Auto accessory plant to drive off with 300 jobs after idling 5 years in Washington

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By KMOV Web Producer By KMOV Web Producer

Three-hundred workers will lose their jobs with a top Franklin County employer.

Harman-Becker Automotive, a group that manufactures car stereos and navigation systems is leaving.  It's pulling out -- after only five years and millions of dollars in tax incentives.

News 4's Maggie Crane is asking if the money spent to get the company was worth the short stay.

The entire state of Missouri is affected by Harmon-Becker's leave.  The state kicked in grants for new roads and employee training programs.  It also gave more than half a million dollars in tax credits.

Still -- the shut-down will be phased in over the next year and a half.

The all-brick building has stood as a beacon of small-town development in Washington, Missouri.  Harman-Becker jobs are good jobs.  Most workers earn $40-60,000 a year assembling car radios and navigation systems.

"It's frustrating when it ends like this one is ending," Washington Mayor Sandy Lucy says.  "It'll certainly have an impact on our local economy."

Those jobs are driving off after idling only five years in a city that put down a dowry in tax dollars to lure the manufacturer.

"It's so competitive these days securing industry," Mayor Lucy says.  "When Harman-Becker came to Washington, they were providing a lot of their product for the Chrysler plant in Fenton, and of course, Chrysler is not there anymore, so if you just connect those dots right there you can see how this may have had an impact on how they are doing business."

Washington put up a package worth nearly $3 Million, including the city's first-ever offer of a 50-percent property tax abatement.

"It wasn't like we gave them 100-percent abatement," Mayor Lucy said.  "So by those standards, we did have an increase in tax revenue."

It also approved $60 Mllion in bonds for Harmon-Becker to build its 90,000 square-foot plant and stock it with machinery.

"How does that affect the taxpayer?" Maggie Crane asked.

"Well the city is not on the hook for any of that," Mayor Lucky said.  "All of those bonds were sold to other entities."

Now city leaders are combing the deal's documents to determine whether Harman-Becker should repay any of the tax breaks. 

Still, the city has no regrets.

"When you take those types of companies into your community, other types of companies begin to look at you differently," Mayor Lucy said.  "So they were good for our marketing program."

The company has said the plant is closing as part of a global restructuring effort.  Last year Harman-Becker closed a plant in Indiana.  At the time, the company said it was shipping jobs to Mexico and China.

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