City Council votes to make ‘marriage’ official with Polaris

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala (WHNT) – Dirt is already being moved at the future Polaris site, but Thursday evening the Huntsville City Council made the "marriage" with the city and Polaris official.

The Polaris contract that was passed by the council outlines the city's $18 million-plus industrial incentives package, which includes free land and tax breaks for the next decade. Huntsville has also agreed to accelerate construction of Greenbrier Parkway, a new limited-access road that will improve access to the Polaris site. Greenbrier Parkway will veer off Greenbrier Road near the Target distribution center and bend northwest for 8.3 miles to Huntsville Brownsferry Road, creating a new link between Interstates 565 and 65.

Huntsville's primary incentive to Polaris is potentially free-use of the 453-acre factory site along I-565 just west of Greenbrier Road.

"The marriage is now official," Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said.

City council also passed a measure to create a special tax increment finance district around the Polaris plant. The district may also take in adjacent farmland that could be ripe for development in the coming years.

Huntsville would borrow the $14.5 million needed to buy the Polaris site. The loan would be repaid over 20 years from the expected growth in property taxes.

Polaris Industries Inc. will build a new, $142-million production facility in Huntsville-annexed Limestone County.  The advanced manufacturing facility will provide additional capacity and flexibility as the company continues to experience rapid growth. Located southwest of downtown Huntsville, the 600,000 square-foot facility will focus on off-road vehicle production.

Polaris selected the Huntsville area due to its skilled workforce, history of technology and innovation, existing utility infrastructure, and strong local and state resources supporting economic development.  Polaris officials said the 453-acre Huntsville site offers Polaris close proximity to its key customer base in the Southeast U.S. and strong logistics network.

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said, “It’s also a strong endorsement for Huntsville to have the state’s two largest economic development announcements [along with Remington] in the past year.  These historic wins validate our competitiveness and promising future as a leading economic driver and destination of choice for successful business.”

Battle continued, “The magnitude of the Polaris facility will draw even more suppliers to our area, further diversifying our strong economic job base. It can also bring opportunities for our existing businesses to earn work.”

The new plant in Alabama will become part of Polaris’ North American plant network and officials say it will reduce complexity within the existing plant network and enable logistics optimization. The company says the Huntsville facility will have multiple assembly lines providing flexibility to quickly replenish demand and support continued product innovations. Equipped with state-of-the-art technologies, the plant will support several core processes including, vehicle assembly, chassis and body painting, welding, fabrication and injection molding. At full capacity, the site will employ at least 1,700 people.

Polaris will break ground on the Huntsville facility in the first quarter of 2015 with completion slated for early in the second quarter of 2016. Production will begin shortly thereafter.

Click here to view a map of the conceptual site plan.

“This new facility will complement our already strong and growing North American manufacturing footprint by reducing pressure on our existing facilities and enable each to remain focused on their current product lines as we continue to meet the demand for our innovative, quality products,” said Ken Pucel, Executive Vice President of Operations, Engineering, and Lean, Polaris Industries Inc. “We are grateful to the city of Huntsville and the state of Alabama for their support as we invest in our shared future.”

Polaris is a leader in the powersports industry with annual 2013 sales of $3.8 billion. The company is headquartered in Medina, Minnesota, just outside of Minneapolis. It hasseveral manufacturing and distribution facilities in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and South Dakota. It also has facilities in Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Spain, Germany and other countries.

Polaris Industries makes a variety of all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles, motorcycles and related parts, as well as other products.

Our news partners at AL.com contributed information to this report.