By Scott Robertson
Tulsa Denstply closed on the purchase of its manufacturing facility in Johnson City Monday, quietly ending what had been at times a tumultuous process.
Washington County’s Industrial Development Board had approved in March a payment-in-lieu-of-tax (PILOT) agreement with JCM International Inc., a holding company for Dentsply, that included the county putting in roughly $700,000. In return, the company guaranteed it would keep its existing 189 jobs in place at the facility in addition to creating 25 new jobs and making a $16.6 million capital investment in the facility over the course of the next 15 years.
Dan Eldridge, Washington County mayor, who crafted a good portion of the deal with Dentsply, said there were no major changes made in the agreement between the authorization of the PILOT agreement and the Monday signing. “The purchase price ended up being slightly less than $700,000,” he said. “It is $693,000 and change.”
A handful of county commissioners had expressed in previous months concern that the county was spending taxpayer dollars to save jobs, potentially setting a dangerous precedent. The debate was heightened by the fact that the company asked that details of negotiations, including its name, be held confidential during the process. In public debate, the deal was referred to as “Project X.” That lack of transparency with negotiations involving public funds rankled many, though such requests for confidentiality are common in economic development.
When the closing occurred Monday, it almost felt anticlimactic, Eldridge said. “More than anything else, I feel a sense of relief.”
“To me, the number one measure of success in Washington County is our ability to recruit and retain business,” Eldridge said. “We can put a check in the box on this deal as being successful without putting an extraordinary burden on the taxpayers and without putting the taxpayers at unnecessary risk.”
The PILOT agreement includes mandatory payments by Dentsply to the county if it fails to meet its hiring and investment goals, ensuring the taxpayers will be made whole over the course of the deal.
“The biggest thing is, this grows the tax base,” Eldridge said. “That allows the county to do more without having to go back to the taxpayers to pay for it.
“We have checked the box on every priority we have in Washington County on this deal.”