By A. Lee
Bell Helicopter will save $13.5 million over 20 years if it meets terms of a newly approved tax abatement.
By 6-2 vote, the Fort Worth City Council on Dec. 13 approved the deal as the firm, a wholly owned subsidiary of Textron Inc., plans to expand its headquarters at Highway 10 and Trinity Boulevard in east Fort Worth.
The abatement requires Bell to spend $235 million in consolidating facilities at the location by Dec. 31, 2015. It also must keep 4,500 employees in Fort Worth through 2020 as part of the deal.
Before the council vote, a company employee urged the council to deny the
â€œThere are no guarantees in Bellâ€™s current proposal,â€ said Janae McPeek, a company employee and president of United Auto Workers Local 317, which serves about 300 Bell employees.
McPeek described the agreement as deceptive because Bell currently employs
more than 6,400 in the area.
But a Bell official said that the 6,465 number that McPeek quoted includes employees from Grand Prairie and Arlington and that they are not included in the Fort Worth tally.
â€œThose numbers were never in the agreement we discussed with Fort Worth,â€ said Robert Hastings, the companyâ€™s senior vice president of communications and government affairs.
As part of the abatement deal, 20 percent of area employees must live in Fort Worth and 5 percent in the central city area within Northeast Loop 820.
â€œThe goal of the company is to gain market share and become successful,â€ said Jay Chapa, the cityâ€™s Housing and Economic Development director. â€œThe whole deal and the whole reason theyâ€™re consolidating is to become more competitive and get a bigger market share.â€
Hastings called the deal good news for a company that he said has contributed $7.6 billion to the Texas economy.
â€œWe are excited about this partnership that will cement Fort Worth as Bellâ€™s global headquarters,â€ Hastings said.
In early November, the firm announced consolidation plans that include moving operations conducted at Fort Worth Alliance Airport, Roanoke and other leased office space to existing company facilities in Fort Worth and Grand Prairie. It also announced a new administrative building and other upgrades for its east Fort Worth complex while seeking a tax abatement.
By Dec. 31, 2012, the first phase of a four-phase expansion plan is expected to yield a new employee center. When the expansion plan reaches fruition on Dec. 31, 2015, the company also would have completed a new headquarters and administration building by Dec. 31, 2014, and a new training academy.
Bell asked nothing unusual in its abatement request.
â€œIt is not outside the box of the typical deals that we do,â€ Chapa said.F