By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large
U.S. Foodservice, which has been kicking tires around Buda and Kyle for more than a year, finally decided it wants to move its plant from Austin to the Sunfield MUD east of Buda.
But the country’s second-largest food distribution company wants help from Hays County before bringing more than 400 living-wage jobs to the Buda area in the next five years.
Representatives from U.S. Foodservice said Tuesday that they would like the county to set up a tax increment finance (TIF) zone to improve 2,500 feet of Turnersville Road on the north of the proposed site, and another 2,100 feet of CR 118 on the west. The TIF would finance improvements to make the two roads wider and stronger to support the company’s heavy truck fleet.
Presently, Turnersville road “might” be a two-lane road, said Hays County Precinct 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton (D-Kyle), while CR 118 is little more than a gravel trail.
In a TIF zone, the amount of property tax collected is “frozen” at its present-day amount, with those funds going to the taxing governments as usual. As development resulting from improvements raise taxes levied within the zone, the difference is used to pay down the debt for the improvements.
U.S. Foodservice representatives told commissioners they believe the $2.5 million in road improvements could be covered by a TIF generating $1.75 million over 15 years, along with a $750,000 grant from the Texas Capital Fund. U.S. Foodservice added that it would guarantee the payments on the TIF.
“The good news is that it supports economic development,” said Hays County Precinct 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton (D-Kyle). “The bad news is that it’s going where we didn’t think we’d be doing infrastructure any time soon.”
The request from U.S. Foodservice came six weeks after Hays County voters approved the issue of $207 million in debt to pay for numerous other road projects. However, commissioners still spoke as if an arrangement can be worked out. John Fowler, president of U.S. Foodservice’s Austin division, said the company has to close on the land before the end of January and would like to hear from the county early next month.
“I believe that what has been proposed here is reasonable,” said Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Conley (R-San Marcos).
U.S. Foodservice said it would make a capital investment of up to $75 million for a 490,000-square-foot office and warehouse facility that would initially employ 254 people and expand to 405 employees in five years. The company said its jobs pay a mean weighted average of nearly $59,000 per year.
Fowler said the company’s present location at Springdale Road and Airport Drive in Austin is running at 114-percent capacity and can’t be expanded.
Fowler said the Buda location would place $1.8 billion of sales potential for the company within a 75-mile radius. Fowler added that U.S. Foodservice, which provides food and restaurant equipment to its customers, has experienced 45-percent sales growth in its Austin-San Antonio-Corpus Christi region during the last four years.
The facility would be located at the northwest corner of the Sunfield MUD, which has agreed to a limited annexation with Buda. The limited annexation provides that the city receives sales taxes, though not property taxes. The northern section of the MUD is set aside for industrial and business uses. U.S. Foodservice would be the first occupant. Representatives for the company told commissioners that the presence of U.S. Foodservice would encourage other re-locating companies to choose a Sunfield location.
“U.S. Foods is looking forward to helping Buda grow,” said Susan Harris of Sight Solutions, which helped the company pick the Sunfield site.
Fowler said the facility would run about 100 truck trips per day, all between 11 p.m. And 2 p.m. and most of them in the wee hours of the morning. Company representatives indicated the truck traffic would not cause the problems so often discussed in Buda, as the trucks would either hit Interstate-35 almost directly out of the parking lot, or reach the southeastern leg of a future SH 45 on the east from Turnersville Road.Email | Print