Sherman started and ended 2018 by working on tax abatements for some prominent local employers and saw a number of things happen in between that will leave a lasting impact on the city.
New attractions and businesses opened, the city recycling program got an overhaul and Sherman residents re-elected their mayor and added a new face to the City Council.
Finisar Corp., which bought the former MEMC building last year and announced plans to create 500 new high-skill jobs in Sherman, was again a major newsmaker for the city in 2018. The council approved a 10-year tax abatement and a five-year Chapter 380 tax rebate agreement for the electronics components manufacturer in March.
Finisar announced in December of last year it would hire 500 new employees to expand its production of VCSELs at its new Sherman facility this year to help meet Apple’s demand for the technology in its iPhone line of products. VCSELs are small semiconductor devices that emit light vertically and measure the depth at which that light is reflected. City staff estimated the tax abatement agreement would save the company around $3.3 million in property taxes, and the tax rebate agreement would save it around $1.2 million.
“Assuming a level investment of $140 million at the current tax rate, the city will realize about $2.7 million in property taxes, and Finisar will receive a benefit of about $3.3 million,” Director of Finance Mary Lawrence said of the tax abatement agreement before discussing the tax rebate agreement. “A tax abatement may only last for 10 years, including extensions, so we grant additional incentives after the tax abatement period expires. The additional five years is about $3 million total in property taxes — the city realizes about $1.8 million of that, with Finisar getting the benefit of about $1.2 million.”
The five-year tax rebate agreement will see the city giving a grant back to Finisar after its full tax bill is paid in years 11 through 15.
In July, Finisar held a ribbon cutting ceremony for its new facility after six months of work. Finisar Chief Executive Officer Michael Hurlston said the company’s production of vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers will open new opportunities for the manufacturer.
“The company is moving from a great history to a new set of things that we’re trying to do,” Hurlston said. “But the main thing today is we’re open for business in Sherman, and we expect to be hiring and bringing jobs to the local community.”
Then in November, it was announced Finisar is to be acquired by II-VI Incorporated, a global manufacturer of engineered materials and optoelectronic components, in a deal worth about $3.2 billion. In a teleconference call held following the announcement, Hurlston said he believes the combined company would have substantial growth potential.
The council decided to alter Sherman’s Recycling Program to only accept cardboard and newspapers during its meeting on Oct. 15, but then revised it again three weeks later and made it optional for residents. The program allows residents to recycle aluminum, tin and steel cans, paper and certain plastic bottles, and cardboard and newspapers.
Sherman’s issue with its Recycling Program started earlier in the year when China, which had long been the largest buyer of recyclables in the world, started an anti-pollution program that requires waste paper, metals or plastic be 99.5 percent free of contaminants like food waste or foam cups. The Associated Press reported U.S. single-stream recycling processing plants usually turn out bales of paper or plastic that are at most 97 percent pure. During the council’s first discussion of the change, Lawrence said Sherman’s recyclables are about 40 percent polluted.
The council approved a five-year property tax abatement for J.P. Hart Lumber Co. during its first meeting of the new year on Tuesday. With Hart Lumber investing $8 million in its Sherman facility, the abatement agreement is expected to provide a $68,000 benefit to Hart Lumber over those five years.
The Sherman City Council approved an eight-year property tax abatement agreement with GlobiTech Inc. in August contingent on its corporate board approving a planned expansion to include a capital investment of $23 million on a 78,000-square-foot facility building that includes 10,000 square feet of cleanroom space and the addition of $24 million in equipment. The expansion is also expected to include the addition of 32 new jobs to the company’s current total of 247 employees.
City staff estimated the agreement would save the local GlobiTech facility an estimated $800,000 during that time. Two months later, GlobiTech officials said it was delaying the planned $47 million expansion.
“GlobiTech received HQ approval for the Fab 3 project but has determined that we now need to take a more cautious approach on initiating the project in light of the recent U.S.-China trade/tariff situation,” GlobiTech Inc. President Mark England said in a written statement. “Nevertheless, in this interim period, GlobiTech continues to move forward by completing our air permit requirements and finalizing our Fab 3 designs to be able to restart in earnest upon seeing positive market and political signs.”
In mid-October, Texoma got its first QuikTrip convenience store in a 5,858-square-foot Sherman location on the southwest corner of FM 691 and U.S. Highway 75. The store is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and has around 20 employees.
That addition was quickly followed by the unveiling of Sherman’s remodeled skate park at Hawn Park in late October. A series of public meetings throughout the year provided local input on the $250,000 renovation done by SPA Skateparks of Austin.
The city opened its first dog park in early December with a ceremony that saw a number of city officials and area canines attending. The new dog park area is located behind Veteran’s Field in the northwest corner of Fairview Park.
The city also unveiled its renovated Sherman Public Library in August after spending nearly $2 million on the project, which was slated even before the building was damaged by a series of intentional fires in April 2017. Renovations included the demolition of a 3,300-square-foot addition on the building’s south side, expanded parking, new roofing, heating, cooling and electrical systems systems, as well as a new fire alarms, restroom layouts, furniture and shelving.
Developers of the Schulman’s Movie Bowl Grille entertainment complex in Sherman broke ground on its new building in June. In addition to the 72,995-square-foot entertainment complex, the development will include a large Lone Star Food Store gas station and convenience store on the southeast corner of U.S. Highway 75 and FM 1417, along with a hotel and convention center on the south side of the development and two smaller businesses along the Hwy. 75 service road that developer Mark Schulman said will likely be restaurants. Developer Mark Schulman said he hopes to have the entertainment complex opened by the middle of May.
In early December, the council also approved a contract with Dean Construction to serve as construction manager-at-risk for the Pecan Grove Athletic Complex project. Dean Construction took on the risk for the work for a guaranteed maximum price of $3,938,495.48. Assistant City Manager Steve Ayers said he expected work to start on the project within weeks of the approval.
As part of the 2018-2019 fiscal year budget, city staff left Sherman’s property tax rate and utility rates unchanged from the 2017-2018 year. The budget approved by the council also included the addition of 22 new city positions and a 3 percent across the board raise for all 457 Sherman employees.
During the municipal election in November, Sherman voters elected new council member Sandra Melton, and re-elected returning council member Willie Steele and Mayor David Plyler.
Then in December, City Manager Robby Hefton announced the appointment of Terrence Steele as Sherman’s second assistant city manager. Steele had served as director of administration through a contract with Strategic Government Resources, an administrative management consulting group, for the last year.
“Over the course of the last year, Terrence has been a valuable addition to our team,” Hefton said in a press release. “He has a wealth of experience and knowledge related to workforce and economic development, and his time as a member of the Sherman City Council gives him a really unique perspective on our City operations. His standing in the community and his ability to establish and maintain relationships is a reflection of the high character he brings to public service.”