Rolls-Royce tax-incentives deal set for hearing

A plan to offer a 10-year tax abatement worth $23 million for Rolls-Royce Corp. to redevelop two plants on the west side and move thousands of office workers into downtown's Faris campus is scheduled for an initial hearing Wednesday before the Indianapolis Metropolitan Development Commission.

Rolls-Royce plans to invest $212 million between the two projects. The largest portion, $190 million, would go toward real estate improvements and new equipment for the company facilities at Tibbs Avenue and Raymond Street.

But first, the company plans to spend $22 million to move 2,200 local office employees from two buildings at the Tibbs Avenue campus, both of which would be demolished to make way for improvements. The office employees would move into the campus near Meridian and South streets formerly occupied by Eli Lilly and Co.

The Faris location is being renamed the Rolls-Royce Meridian Center.

"Many of Rolls-Royce's facilities on Tibbs Avenue and related infrastructures were constructed shortly before and during World War II," said company spokesman Joel Reuter in an e-mail. "Rolls-Royce has made substantial capital investments in real and personal property in the Tibbs site and is in the process of doing so at Rolls-Royce Meridian Center."

Rolls-Royce is not promising new jobs as part of the agreement, but said the moves will help it retain 4,150 existing positions, according to the tax-abatement application.

The city's planning staff has recommended approval of the tax abatements, since "a project such as this would not be economically feasible" without it, it said.

"These renovations and relocation projects are critical to securing Rolls-Royce's continued presence in Marion County," the abatement resolution notes. "Without this project, future research functions and product lines will likely be moved to Rolls-Royce's state-of-the-art facility in Reston, Va."

The abatement deal is unusual for Marion County in that it does not tie the incentives to job creation.

City officials have acknowledged the deal isn't typical, but they say the benefits to the city merit the investment.

Rolls-Royce said it interviewed 250 pre-screened candidates Saturday to fill 87 openings for machinists to work in Indianapolis. Starting pay for the jobs is $18.25 to $21.25 per hour. The company said it screened 1,300 applications for the interviews.

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