Baton Rouge’s Mezzo Technologies looking beyond racecar tracks to space _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Mezzo Technologies President Kevin W. Kelly, left, chats with NASA Director of Game-changing Development Ryan Stephan, center, as Joe Poynot, a Mezzo design engineer, watches. NASA officials toured Mezzo's facilities and equipment Tuesday.

Two Baton Rouge-based companies may be penalized for not creating jobs promised through a controversial economic incentive for manufacturers. 

The Industrial Tax Exemption Program historically did not have job requirements but the program was reformed through an executive order by Governor John Bel Edwards in 2016 to include local taxing entity approval and for employers to create a minimum number of jobs.

The East Baton Rouge Metro Council was scheduled to consider penalties against International Mezzo Technologies and Tin Roof Brewery Company for breaking ITEP contract rules at its November 10 meeting. The item was set to be introduced at Wednesday's Metro Council meeting, which was postponed because of heavy thunderstorms, so the discussion could be delayed. 

Louisiana Economic Development notified East Baton Rouge Parish in early October there are several options for handling Mezzo and Tin Roof such as deferring any decision to the state Board of Commerce and Industry, offering an opinion about penalties to the state board or mandating the company pay a penalty for default. 

A Mezzo Technologies contract for ITEP dating back to 2018 for $210,000 of total investment was approved by Metro Council. It required that the company hire two new workers in 2019 for an additional $77,000 in payroll. But by the end of the year the business, which makes heat exchangers, didn't meet the requirements. The business lost four workers in late 2019 but hired new employees who didn't start working until January 2020. 

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"We'd like to explain why we were non-compliant and make sure they understand that the rules changed and that we were non-compliant for six days and it was during the holidays," said Mark Turner, director of finance for Mezzo Technologies.

The company hopes if the Metro Council defers a decision to the state board their economic incentive will not be disqualified. 

Mezzo Technologies is seeking yet another ITEP with the Metro Council for another expansion where it would hire two new workers for a tax break of $53,914 over a 10 year period. Demand for its products has remained steady and the business said it did not lay off workers, according to the company. 

Tin Roof Brewing was required to hire more workers totaling $205,000 in payroll tied to an ITEP agreement in 2016 totaling $920,000 in total investment. The company is missing documentation for three years in a row starting in 2018.

"I don't think creating the required jobs is the case here," said Cammy McGehee, co-owner of Tin Roof. "This program has changed so much it's hard for a small business to keep up. We believe that we compiled with the requirements and we are working on filing the missing information." 


Email Kristen Mosbrucker at kmosbrucker@theadvocate.com or follow her on Twitter @k_mosbrucker