Super Insulation of Lewco Specialty Products

Super Insulation, a subsidiary of Lewco Specialty Products, a Baton Rouge-based manufacturer is seeking tax incentives for an expansion of its insulation business. 

The East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council on Wednesday granted its first industrial tax break since adopting stipulations that now guide their approval for requests through the state's Industrial Tax Exemption Program. 

The Metro Council's unanimous decision to grant a 10-year tax relief to Super Insulation for a proposed $8.4 million expansion project at its Baton Rouge facility garnered praise from the community leaders who have been fighting to maintain local control on tax exemptions for industry. 

"Our main goal was to remove ITEP from being a rubber-stamp entitlement program (and) have it become a true incentive-based program," Dianne Hanley, a leader with Together Baton Rouge, told council members Wednesday night. "Some say the process for reforming ITEP is broken. I don't think it had a chance to be tested yet. Today is the day and we're on track."

ITEP has been a hot-button issue, with passionate debate on both sides, since Gov. John Bel Edwards through an executive order gave local tax authorities the power to decide which companies can get the tax break. 

After the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board in January rejected two ITEP proposals from ExxonMobil, state lawmakers tried to push a bill through the recent Legislative session that would have streamlined the procedures the governor put in place, with the goal of creating a single point of contact at the local level to circumvent the need for industry having to gain approvals from various tax jurisdictions. 

That bill failed. 

The Metro Council in November adopted its own guidelines for ITEP approvals, one of which requires expansions and new construction projects to create at least 15 permanent jobs or 10 percent of the business's pre-project employment baseline in order to get the tax break. 

The request from Super Insulation was recommended for approval by faith-based organization Together Baton Rouge, as well as the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and the state's Office of Economic Development because it hit all the benchmarks set forth by the Metro Council.  

According to its application, Super Insulation's $8 million project consists of installing new machinery and equipment to support its manufacturing of a hydrophobic mat used in industrial piping. 

The expansion will add 6 new jobs to the 34 positions that already make up the company's approximately $2.2 million payroll. 

Super Insulation is now set to receive a $152,441 tax break in the first year of its exemption, with an estimated total exemption of $1.2 million over the 10-year period. 

"I'm grateful this is our first test case," said Councilwoman Donna Collins-Lewis. "I'm very glad this isn't going the opposite way."

Collins-Lewis, in whose district the business is located, praised the business's owner for investing in the surrounding community through advocacy work and hiring local talent. 

Councilwoman Barbara Freiberg called Super Insulation a great community partner that she's seen first hand making a difference in Collins-Lewis' district. 

"I'm excited they're expanding," Freiberg said.  

Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.