Commissioners approve KOEZ’s for Westvaco and undeveloped Dixon properties

The Blair County Commissioners approved Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zone status for the Westvaco and undeveloped Dixon properties in Tyrone yesterday.
This is the final local hurdle for the properties as the request is now being forwarded to the State level through an application by the Southern Alleghenies Planning Commission.
The properties are the two tracts of property at Westvaco which adds up to just over 32 acres and the undeveloped property at the Tyrone Industrial Park owned by Bill Dixon which is just over 16 acres.
The properties would be an expansion of the KOZ in Snyder Township at the Robert C. Jubelirer Industrial Park which houses warehouses for Smith Transport.
Earlier this month, the KOEZ status for the properties was approved by the Tyrone School Board and Tyrone Borough Council.
“This was something we needed to do to help get the mill opened again,” said Blair County Commissioner John Eichelberger. “This was something that was asked for in the negotiations and planning for the reopening of the mill. They need to have the tax incentives to accomplish their business plan for purchase and opening of the mill. It was critical to their business plan for the KOEZ to be approved so they can get the mill into operation and get jobs back into the Tyrone community.”
The KOEZ approved by the commissioners was different than most.
“This KOEZ was a first for our county,” said Eichelberger. “This is the first time that we took a highly taxable property off the books,” said Eichelberger. “Between the three taxing bodies we are losing $100,000 annually from the Westvaco property. Many properties that fall into the KOZ or KOEZ are like the Dixon property that are undeveloped and are a small loss in tax dollars. The school district will see some money if the mill reopens through wage taxes, but the county won’t see a dollar for five years.”
The KOZ/KOEZ is a nice incentive to lure businesses into the area.
“We have learned that the ability to abate local and state taxes are a big incentive for any company looking to locate in the area,” said Pat Miller, deputy director of ABCD Corporation. “The abatement of state taxes have had a great impact on the financial bottom lines of companies who locate in KOZ and KOEZ areas. This will be a great marketing tool for Bill Dixon, the borough and ABCD to help get a business to locate in the Tyrone Industrial Park.”
When asked about how close things were with the Westvaco property, Miller joked, “about 21 miles” (the distance between the ABCD building and the mill property).
Miller then said, “We are still in negotiations. There are not as many ‘T’s’ to cross and ‘I’s’ to dot but there are still agreements that need to be finalized. Things are looking promising.”
It has been rumored for months that the mill site would be reopening under new ownership and making a different product.
The Daily Herald placed a call to the MeadWestvaco offices in Tyrone, and personnel manager John Ferner said, “The position of MeadWestvaco is to have no comment.”
With the phones still being answered, “MeadWestvaco,” it shows that the property has not been sold as of today.
“I keep hearing three weeks,” said Eichelberger, when asked about the time frame for an announcement. “I have been hearing three weeks for a couple months now, but when it happens it will be a great thing for our area.”
The mill has been vacant since MeadWestvaco ceased production with completion of the first shift workers at 4 p.m. on October 26, 2001. At that time the paper mill whistle blew for 121 seconds… one second for each year of operation.