YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The owner of Youngstown’s Chill-Can plant said construction will continue at the facility, despite pending legal action from the city.
Attorney Brian Kopp of Betras, Kopp & Harshman is representing the M. J. Joseph Development Corporation. He said he looks forward to meeting with the city’s lawyers and coming to an agreement.
“They have not intention of walking away from this,’ Kopp said.
Last month, city officials said they were issuing an official legal notice to the company, which they say failed to meet several benchmarks as part of an agreement to receive funding for the project.
“If the city refuses to acknowledge the difficulties caused by the pandemic, I am prepared to defend the interests of MJJDC and seek all legal remedies available to it. This company has invested millions of its own dollars in the Youngstown project, and I have the privilege of assisting it as it works diligently to complete a profitable and sustainable facility that will employ the hardworking people of our community.”
Ground was broken for the factory in 2016. In December, city officials held a meeting about incentives the company received but said the company hadn’t met the required goals for construction and hiring of employees.
“Everyone needs to understand in 2019 no one anticipated he would have endured the better part of 14 months of almost complete business interruption,” Kopp said.
As part of the notice, City Law Director Jeff Limbian said the owner of the plant has 60 days to rectify the issues or the matter will move to the courts. That could include going after tax dollars spent on the project, including money used to move residents out of the area.
Kopp is asking for patience and not what he called “unrealistic expectations” of getting the plant opened in 60 days.
“While I wish I could say that today that there is a firm forecast in place, I will say there’s firm commitment, and we need the city to work with us,” Kopp said.
Youngstown Mayor Tito Brown says he’s not bending on his 60-day deadline.
“I’m looking for him to come up with here’ show we’re going to keep our promise to the citizens of Youngstown because we took public money. When you take public money, you make a promise. You have to do something about it,” Brown said.
On Wednesday, Kopp also released a statement from CEO Mitchell Joseph, saying he is committed to the project:
I want to assure the people of the Mahoning Valley, especially the residents of the City of Youngstown, that we have never wavered in our commitment to the Chill Can Beverage and Technology project. To date, we have invested $5,000,000 of our own funds into the project above and beyond the grant from the City and we will continue to do whatever is necessary to make the east side facility a center of innovation and manufacturing.
Unfortunately, we have experienced delays during the construction phase of this project. Many delays are attributable to the unanticipated COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic impacted every aspect of our business in the U.S. and abroad. For over a year, the shutdown of the global economy has interrupted our supply chains, disrupted our operations, and affected our suppliers, vendors, and customers.
We are pleased to report that MJJDC and the Joseph Companies have made the adjustments necessary to endure the crisis and we anticipate our core operations will return to pre-pandemic levels as the U.S. and global economies gain momentum. Time is needed to complete the construction phase of the Youngstown complex and hire Valley residents so that we may begin to manufacture and distribute product.
Kopp said he is hoping Mayor Brown and the city will work with his client but is prepared if he doesn’t.
“I think we need to continue to work with him. I’ll fight for that. If the city will not do it willingly, we’ll take whatever action we need to take as well as in the courtroom,” Kopp said.
Kopp also added that instead of looking at what the Joseph Company has not done, look at what it has done, such as a $5 million investment in Youngstown. However, Mayor Brown compared it to the General Motors situation in Lordstown, where GM left early and had to return some of the incentive money.
A meeting is scheduled for Friday, April 16 to see if the situation can be worked out.