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$25 million reinvestment in Bekaert plant announced, retaining 120 full-time jobs

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Bekaert Corp., one of Rome’s first international companies, revealed plans for a $25 million investment in its Rome plant Tuesday.

Plant Manager Gary Downey said the decision to make significant upgrades to the Rome plant at 301 Darlington Drive would enhance its competitiveness. Much of the machinery inside the building dates to the plant’s 1970 opening.

“Some of the equipment has been here from Day One,” Downey said.

Bekaert makes steel wire used in the manufacturing of tires and a variety of rubber hose applications.

Downey said modernization will reduce the workforce as the new equipment is brought on line over the next couple of years, but the reinvestment will enable the Rome plant to retain 120 full-time jobs.

“Going back years ago, I think we had over 600 employees,” Downey said.

He declined to say exactly how many people are employed at the plant today but said it is more than 120.

“Obviously the revitalization will involve some reduction in employment but, you know, we expect to have steady employment going forward,” Downey added.

He said the company anticipates the workforce will level out at a number considerably higher than the 120 stipulated in the $25 million bond resolution approved Tuesday by the Rome Floyd Development Authority.

“We’ve been working on this thing well over two years,” Downey said. “We were looking all over the place. We have a couple of facilities in Arkansas, one in Kentucky and early on there was some discussion about outside the United States.”

Bekaert is headquartered in Belgium.

Bekaert will be upgrading in two phases and each $12.5 million phase will have a separate 5-year tax abatement plan. Phase One will receive 100 percent abatements in 2015 and 2016, 75 percent abatement in 2017, and 50 percent abatement in 2018 and 2019.

The Phase Two investments will receive 100 percent abatements in 2016 and 2017, 75 percent abatement in 2018 and 50 percent abatement in 2019 and 2020.

Bekaert will make payments in lieu of taxes totaling $156,250 over the period from 2015-2020.

In other business, Anne Kaiser of Georgia Power was seated as chair of the authority based on her role as chair of the Greater Chamber of Commerce for the coming year.

Gary Majestic, chairman of the Greater Rome Existing Industries Association, Rome Mayor Jamie Doss, businessman Doc Kibler and Pete McDonald, president of Georgia Northwestern Technical College, were also named to the board.