Invensys, with roots 104 years old in Foxborough, has expressed “significant” interest to remain in town but needs a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) program approved in order to invest $30 million worth of renovations to existing infrastructure.
Steve Sacco, senior vice president of Invensys, informed selectmen last week the company is approaching the end of two building leases in town and has started looking at its options both in and outside of Foxborough.
“We’ve started to look at facilities in the area … in Foxborough and elsewhere,” Sacco said. … “Our goal in what we need to do is really provide a modern, attractive workspace for our employees. We currently have vacant and outdated space in our buildings.”
Invensys currently operates out of three locations in Foxborough. The company owns the Neponset Building on Neponset Avenue and leases the Cocasset Building on Mechanic Street and the Bristol Park complex on Route 140 across from the Shell gas station. The leases for both the Cocasset Building and Bristol Park complex are ending soon, which has Sacco exploring real estate options.
Sacco said one of the company’s proposed options – and one that many in Foxborough will be relieved to hear – is to remain in town and invest $30 million into the leased Cocasset Building on Mechanic Street and the Neponset Building on Neponset Avenue.
“As part of that proposal we would look to renew the lease for the Cocasset building, we would likely vacate both of the Bristol Park buildings and consolidate our employees together,” said Sacco.
The Bristol Park complex currently houses Invensys administrative offices and a training center, which will likely be moved to the Cocasset Building, according to Sacco. The $30 million investment on the current buildings would be used to upgrade the Neponset Building space, which is almost 100 years old, and improve infrastructure at both Neponset and Cocasset buildings.
“We want to make it attractive not only to our existing employees but also to attract new engineering talent to our company,” Sacco said of the company’s current buildings. … “This is very important to us because we are in a competitive industry and we want to maintain our leadership position.”
In order for Invensys to make that kind of investment on its current buildings and remain in Foxborough, Sacco said the town would need to approve the company’s TIF application under the state-run program.
“Our expectation is if we make this significant level of investment our real estate footprint would be larger and our real estate taxes would rise,” Sacco said. “I think it is important [the town] realizes these proposed tax incentives and this proposed project is very important to the company. It is a significant investment for any company and we do operate in a very global and competitive environment where we do have lots of options available to us.”
As a result, Sacco said the proposed plan to stay in Foxborough would have to make financial sense for the company.
“Because we are a financially driven company we do need to make a strong case not only to our management locally but globally that this is the right thing to do [stay in Foxborough],” Sacco said. … “We hope to have these discussions and have these incentives secured over the next few months so we can make a final decision on what our plans look like.”
Those incentives would be secured under the state’s TIF program, which according to Lynn Tokarczyk, a government incentive consultant for Invensys, serves as an economic development tool to retain and attract businesses in town. While Foxborough has never granted a business a TIF, there have been 18 issued throughout the region since the program’s inception in 1993.
“It’s been a great successful tool in the region,” Tokarczyk said.
TIFs, according to Tokarczyk, “help keep jobs in the local economy and grow existing companies.” In Foxborough, granting a TIF to Invensys would keep over 1,000 jobs in town and prevent a fixture of the local economy from leaving.
Tokarczyk added that despite popular belief, TIFs do not lead to a loss in the town’s tax revenue.
“There’s always a myth out there that communities would lose tax revenue,” she said. “If the [renovation] project doesn’t move forward then there’s the risk that the town would lose any potential new tax revenue.”
Under the TIF program, the town would not lose any existing real estate tax revenue for the Neponset Avenue and Mechanic Street buildings and would grant a discount on the projected new real estate taxes Invensys would owe as a result of its renovation project.
“The town does not lose a dime on the existing taxes,” said Tokarczyk.
A TIF, according to Tokarczyk, typically lasts 20 years.
Foxborough Town Manager Kevin Paicos has had experience in a number of TIF projects, primarily in Hingham, and says “it is a very simple concept.”
“There aren’t a lot of moving pieces to a TIF,” Paicos said. … “They are ordinarily successful under the right conditions.”
The process for granting a TIF is multi-layered. A town-appointed committee will make a recommendation to the Board of Selectmen whether or not to support the TIF application. Selectmen will then decide whether or not to support the TIF application. If the board supports the application, it will then go before voters at Town Meeting. If approved at Town Meeting it will then be reviewed by the state before receiving final approval.
While officials were confident at last week’s board meeting that an agreement will ultimately be reached, Paicos stressed the importance of explaining the purpose of a TIF to voters at Town Meeting.
“At the end of the day, what has to be explained to voters at Town Meeting is why we are giving up [future] tax revenues,” Paicos said. “The answer has to be because the value of this company in town outweighs the additional tax revenues.”
Foxborough Board of Selectmen chair James DeVellis added that presenting a TIF to voters in May won’t be an easy sell.
“This is a positive discussion but there is a negative side to TIF,” DeVellis said. “We’ve never done a TIF before. It’s not going to be easy to get people to understand it. I don’t want to underestimate that when we get to Town Meeting.
“I think there are people that are nervous about the situation and wondering what’s going to happen. I would hate to see those buildings just end up like certain buildings in other communities that aren’t kept up or worse.”
To underline the importance of granting a TIF to Invensys, Paicos asked Sacco if a tax-break agreement would keep the company in Foxborough.
“I think with this kind of investment we would be making a significant commitment to the town and to our business here locally,” Sacco said.
That was all Paicos needed to hear.
“Well, that’s probably the best and biggest economic development news this town has had in a long time,” Paicos said. “That’s wonderful.”
Selectman Lynda Walsh, whose family has had a long working relationship with Invensys, agreed.
“This relationship needs to stay here in Foxborough,” Walsh said. “Right now they are one of the biggest taxpayers but the thing is they give back to the community. I look forward to it I think it’s great.”
Selectman Mark Sullivan shared in the enthusiasm.
“It’s very good news,” said Sullivan. “I think it takes the tension off. It’s been talked about for years that we are competing with Texas.”
Recognizing the aggressive timeline of the TIF application process, selectmen moved swiftly to appoint a four-person TIF committee that will meet with Invensys to vet out the details of the proposal.
“Their timeline is very aggressive,” Paicos said. “I don’t see any problem with that timeline. We all have to understand going into this that this is going to have to move quickly. This is not going to drag on. We are going to get these good folks some answers and it is going to need to move. It’s going to be a big undertaking in a short period of time.”
Sitting on the town’s TIF Committee will be Town Planner Sharon Wason, Chief Financial Officer Randy Scollins, Paicos and Chief Assessor Hannelore Simonds. Serving the committee as advisors will be Town Counsel Richard Gelerman and Building Inspector Bill Casbarra.
“Pretty good core team right there,” Paicos said. “You don’t want to have the TIF committee be 14 people.”
Tokarczyk told selectmen the town should be receiving an Incentives of Intent Letter, which outlines the company’s intent and interest in a TIF, some time this week. From there, the town’s TIF Committee will likely sit down with Invensys representatives in “the next couple weeks” to look over the proposal.
If all goes well in those discussions, voters will be deciding on Invensys’ future in Foxborough at May’s Annual Town Meeting.