PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Last May, Fire Cider owner Dana St. Pierre said the company needed to find a new commercial kitchen within a year and a half or its growth would come to a halt.
The company was searching locally for a spot to build out a commercial kitchen but struggled to find the right match. It seems the herbal tonic-maker has found it and this week the company will be asking the City Council for a tax increment financing package to help make the finances work.
Mayor Linda Tyer put forth a petition to give Shire City Herbals a 10-year tax forgiveness package of its purchase and renovation of 15 Commercial St. The company is agreeing to create 10 new jobs by 2021, create a dozen construction jobs during the renovation, and invest a total of a half-million dollars into building upgrades.
In return, the city will phase in the increased property assessment created by the renovations. For the first year the company will pay the taxes on the current assessment — approximately $543,000 for a $21,600 tax bill — and for the first five years the increased value will be added to the assessment 20 percent more each year. For the last five, it will increase at 10 percent more each year until the new assessment is reached.
"An estimated $55,460 in real estate taxes will be paid on the incremental increase in valuation during the ten-year term of the TIF agreement and an estimated $27,310 in real estate taxes will be forgiven on the incremental increase in valuation," Tyer wrote.
"The Massachusetts Economic Assistance Coordinating Council has already approved the project subject to the City Council's approval of the local TIF agreement."
Fire Cider is an old-fashioned New England cure-all that St. Pierre, his wife, Amy Huebner, and Brian Hueber turned into a commercial product in 2011. They began the business out of their Wendell Avenue home while using the commercial kitchen located in Greenfield to make it. The three found a niche and the product has taken off.
The company moved its offices to space on West Housatonic Street — the same building as Blue Q — but still used the kitchen at the Franklin County Community Development Corp. The company is up to 14 full-time staffers and with a commercial kitchen, says it will hire more. Shire City Herbals is boasting of growing some 70 percent per year.
The state's Economic Development Incentive Program is contributing $74,000 in tax incentives for the expansion. Shire City Herbals is looking to spend close to a million on the building including the purchase — for which there is a purchase-and-sales agreement in place — and $400,000 to build the commercial kitchen. In the future, the company seeks to spend another $100,000 to update the office spaces.
"Brian [Huebner], Dana [St. Pierre] and I first started Shire City Herbals, in part, due to the incredible support we received from our community, including city officials and many local business owners. When we asked Mayor Tyer for help securing a longtime home for our growing business, she personally got on the phone and made us a top priority," Amy Huebner said in a release issued two weeks ago on the state's incentive.
"The investment in a new building and subsequent modifications will allow for in-house product development and space for additional staff. We finally found our new home on Commercial Street and the tax credits we have received will go a long way in helping our business continue to grow. We look forward to moving in and hiring more than a dozen people from the Pittsfield community that has shown us so much love and support."
The agreement will go to the City Council on Tuesday night and likely referred to the subcommittee on finance, which has already scheduled a meeting with the TIF on the agenda for Wednesday.
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