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Business news briefs — Dec. 17

LOCAL BUSINESS

Heinz plant gets tax break

The area operations of two companies, including ketchup and frozen-food maker H.J. Heinz, are set to receive tax breaks estimated at about $1.8 million from the state.

Heinz is poised to receive a state Job Creation Tax Credit estimated at $865,398 for creating 275 full-time jobs at the company’s plants in Massillon and Fremont. The Ohio Tax Credit Authority approved the credit — to be paid over nine years — on Tuesday.

The jobs are expected to generate $6.5 million in additional annual payroll. Most of the new jobs — totaling 250 — will be at the Massillon facility, where a $28 million expansion is scheduled. Massillon city officials and Heinz last month revealed plans for expansion of the frozen-food plant. The new jobs are on top of 450 existing jobs at the facility and are expected to generate $5.69 million in additional annual payroll. That works out to about $23,000 per worker. The new jobs are expected to be added to the plant over a three-year period, beginning next year.

The expansion in Massillon and Fremont comes as the Pittsburgh-headquartered company is closing three U.S. plans and shifting jobs to other facilities.

Heinz also is scheduled to receive a nine-year tax credit from the city of Massillion.

Also Tuesday, the Tax Credit Authority approved a six-year Job Creation Tax Credit, estimated at $947,508, for a company called Network Solutions Provider. This company expects to create 300 full-time jobs, generating an additional $12 million in annual payroll, at its Youngstown facility.

Network Solutions Provider, headquartered in Long Beach, Calif., offers telecommunications services, including Internet work, digital signal, ethernet, wireless and telephone systems services.

The state notes that the value of the tax credits are just estimates at this point. Actual amounts are “performance based,” meaning they are based on the number of jobs created, as well as new payroll, as verified by the state.

— Katie Byard

Sterling lawsuit update

A hearing is scheduled Feb. 5 on whether current and former Sterling Jewelers Inc. female employees can turn a pay and promotion discrimination case against the Akron-based company into a class-action lawsuit.

On Tuesday, an arbitrator in New York ruled that the current and former workers’ motion asking for a class action can be made available to the public, after some material was redacted. The 128-page document is available online at www.cohenmilstein.com/media/pnc/4/media.1404.pdf. The lawsuit, filed in 2008, alleges that Sterling, which operates stores under Jared, Kay and other names nationwide, discriminated against its female employees in pay and promotions dating to 2003.

The suit grew out of complaints filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC alleged systemic sex discrimination in pay and promotions across more than 1,400 stores. Sterling is a division of Signet Jewelers Ltd. [NYSE: SIG]. Sterling has opposed the request for class certification and has said the charges are invalid. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Western New York.

— Katie Byard

CORPORATE MOVES

Marathon boosts production

Marathon Oil said it plans to pour $3.6 billion into boosting its production of oil and gas from North America in 2014, outlining a plan increasingly focused on lucrative production in the United States.

AT&T makes landline sale

AT&T Inc. agreed to sell its Connecticut landline business and statewide fiber-optic network to Frontier Communications Corp. for $2 billion in cash, letting the phone company focus on more lucrative wireless services. Frontier also will acquire AT&T’s U-verse television and broadband customers in the state, as well as satellite TV subscribers. The move continues AT&T’s shift away from its roots as a landline phone company.

AUTO INDUSTRY

GM making investment

General Motors factories in three states will share in a $1.3 billion investment to improve pickup trucks and make new fuel-efficient engines and transmissions.

The money will go to the Flint, Mich., assembly plant; an engine plant in Romulus, Mich., near Detroit; a transmission factory in Toledo; and a casting plant in Bedford, Ind.

Compiled from staff and wire reports.



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