Upstate Business Journal
“The third time’s the charm for the long-vacant former Sara Lee building, which saw two potential developments – including Amy’s Kitchen – rise and fall before Reading, Penn.-based Sweet Street Desserts announced plans in 2013 for an additional manufacturing facility.
Now, the $61.7 million investment project is one step closer to reality after the company secured $10 million in new market tax credit financing, potentially leaving $2.8 million in tax credit subsidies to help it along.
The facility could have a direct local economic impact of $92 million by adding up to 100 quality jobs that pay significantly higher than those in the area, said Tammy Propst, president of Tax Advantage Group, the community development entity that manages the deployment of these kinds of tax credit allocations. The facility also has the potential to attract other manufacturers and spur further development that benefits the community, she said.
“The whole premise behind the program was to pull outside capital into markets that generally wouldn’t have been able to find that capital,” said Propst.
The Sweet Street project fits into the group’s fund mission of either creating quality jobs or adding to the health and wellness of a community, she said. The project is expected to add up to 100 jobs that pay an average of $18 per hour, which is 109 percent higher than the county’s average living wage and 189 percent greater than that census tract’s per capita income, she said.
Sweet Street – which plans to begin operations this summer – is working to upfit the 120,000-square-foot space at 1916 Piedmont Highway with new machinery and equipment.
Sweet Street is working with Apprenticeship Carolina to create nine separate apprenticeship programs for the facility, and is working with the former Sara Lee plant manager to locate Sara Lee employees still in the area who lost their jobs when the plant originally closed, Propst said.
New market tax credits are substantially below-market seven-year loans with equity-like features aimed at revitalizing communities and neighborhoods. The credits are behind other major Upstate projects such as the NEXT Innovation Center, RiverWalk, Project ONE, The Claussen Bakery redevelopment, The Children’s Museum and the TDC Cutting Tools project, she said.
This form of federal financing is awarded to certified community development entities around the country aimed at bringing subsidized financing to projects that improve communities through economic development. Propst and her team at Tax Advantage Group and her colleagues at the Greenville Area
Headquartered in Reading, Penn., Sweet Street Desserts has more than 700 employees who manufacture gourmet desserts for 60 countries.
“We are extremely pleased to establish new operations in Greenville, and very appreciative of the New Markets Tax Credit funding from GNMO II,” said Sweet Street Desserts Founder and CEO Sandy Solmon in a news release. ‘It allows our company to maintain industry leadership while bringing new jobs to South Carolina – a win/win for all.’”