Why Not Iron, the West Garfield Park-based iron fabricator, is looking to renovate its existing facility and build a new one nearby, hiring a total of 22 more people in the process — but only if it gets Cook County Class 6(b) property tax incentives.
On May 17, the Chicago City Council’s Committee on Economic, Capital and Technology Development voted unanimously to send the applications to the full City Council.
While it will be up to the Cook County Assessor to determine whether the company gets the incentive, it must get the city council approval first. As of press time, the vote had been scheduled to take place at a May 24 meeting, where it was expected to be approved.
Why Not Iron is located in the Northwest Industrial Corridor, at 4425 W Kinzie St. According to its website, the company builds fences, gates, fences, stairs and custom architectural designs. The examples include several high-profile projects, including ornamental fencing for the fountains at Navy Pier Crystal Gardens.
During the May 17 meeting, Ed Lewis, a coordinator of industrial economic development at the Chicago Department of Planning and Development, explained that Why Not Iron is looking to renovate its existing facility, which would allow it to hire more people and to expand.
“The business employs 15 workers and expects to create 12 full-time permanent jobs,” Lewis said. “Construction is scheduled to start in spring of this year and be completed in the fall.”
The company is also looking to build a brand-new facility a few blocks further east, at 4217-19 W Kinzie Street. According to the application documents, it will be about 5,000 square feet. Lewis said that the company expects to spend $571,000 on the project, and that the new investment would create 10 construction jobs and 10 permanent jobs.
In order to offset the costs, the company is applying for Class 6(b) property tax classification. In Cook County, different properties are taxed at different rates, and industrial properties are assessed at 25 percent.
The Class 6(b) tax classification temporarily lowers the rate in order to encourage the construction of new industrial buildings or the rehabilitation of existing ones. Under this classification, the property gets assessed at 10 percent of its market value for 10 years, 15 percent during the 11th year and 20 percent during the 12th year.
Although it would automatically return to 25 percent in the 13th year, the property owner can apply for an extension. There is currently no limit on how many extensions they can get.
Both the current facility and the future site of the new facility are located in the Northwest Growth Zone, which means that Why Not Iron would be able to receive technical assistance with hiring locally and it must pay all of its employees a living wage. While new businesses applying for Class 6(b) classification must commit to hiring at least 20 employees, this requirement doesn’t apply to existing businesses like Why Not Iron.
Lewis said that Why Not Iron expects to save a total of $93,000 in property taxes. He also said that even with the Class 6(b) classification, the new building will generate approximately $40,000 property taxes.
Ald. Jason Ervin, whose 28th Ward encompasses Why Not Iron, said during the May 18 meeting that he supports the company’s application. He said that Sean Kelly, who is listed on the application as Why Not Iron’s co-owner, vice-president and manager, has been a positive force in on the Kinzie Street industrial corridor
“Mr. Kelly single-handedly looked at this stretch of Kinzie and made great improvements in that area,” he said.
The only citizen to make a public comment was activist George Blakemore, who raised an issue he has raised at many other development-related meetings.
“I think it’s good, too, because you are keeping some manufacturing in the area,” he said. “But I want the aldermen to be cognizant of the people who work manufacturing in these wards. They should look like people who live in those wards.”