In a 4-1 vote last week the county commission approved allowing Sicamu, Inc. to reuse the former Printing House facility on Strong Road in Quincy and approved a site plan for the new business.
The site plan approval was necessary because of the type of manufacturing that will be conducted there, which required a higher level of review. That, in turn, required the review to be subject to the county’s “Citizen’s Bill of Rights” ordinance.
There were several stumbling blocks in this particular process that occurred when the project first came before the commission.
Several commissioners had concerns when the county staff could not confirm if the signage announcing the former Printing House building’s future use had been posted.
Because of the uncertainty of the signage, Sicamu was required to go through the process again.
The company was required to meet with the community twice, attend two planning and zoning board meetings as well as contact property owners within 1,000 feet of the facility.
In addition, not only did the adjacent owners of property receive required notification, it was noted that county staff also passed out notifications to residents in apartments and to people working in nearby businesses.
During the second process the company received a 9-1 vote of approval (the first was 9-0) from the planning and zoning board. Last week it came back before the county commission for the second time.
Sicamu is a family-owned business from Venezuela that is relocating some of its manufacturing operations to the United States, specifically Gadsden County.
The company manufactures aerosol and non-aerosol products for car and industrial maintenance.
A question during much of the debate was the use of chemicals and propane in the manufacturing process. The company will be mixing, emulsifying and homogenizing chemicals for spray applications.
In response, the owner, Ines Pons, explained the products he manufactures are in most households, and used WD-40 and car wax as examples of what his company would produce.
He added that the chemicals were not toxic and are silicon-based.
Pons has bought the building and intends on investing $1.5 million in payroll, starting with approximately 35 employees.
A string of local residents commented on allowing the company to move forward.
Here are some of those comments:
• Matt Thro, a businessman in Havana, said that Pons had come here, invested in the community and wanted to create jobs. “I wish this could be in Havana,” Thro said.
• Karen Bass from Havana who represented Pons through the application process, said Pons was a family business who wanted to come to Gadsden County. The construction process alone, she said, would start employing people immediately.
• Allen Herod, who operated the Print House, said the company moved to Gadsden County in 1985. “I think they would be good for this county,” he said.
• Quincy Mayor Keith Dowdell stated his staff had been working extensive hours to make sure everything was done correctly. The city of Quincy will be providing utilities and safety services to the plant.
• Quincy City Manager Jack McLean said he had met with the new owner as a regulatory agency and found him to be very professional. He said the company wanted to comply with all of the city’s regulations and had not asked for any concessions.
• Quincy Fire Chief Scott Haire said that Pons had complied with the safety levels he requested. “I have reached the point,” Haire said, “that I am comfortable with the project and I think it is a manageable risk that the fire department can handle.”
• Havana businessman Eddie Bass told the commissioners that he received 6-7 employment applications a week from around the area. “We need jobs,” Bass stated.
No one from the audience stood in opposition to the project.
Commissioner Sherrie Taylor, who opposed the project the first time it came before the board, held fast to her opposition saying she was concerned with the chemicals used in the process. The facility is located in her district.
“Is this the kind of business you want in a community?” she asked refering to the amount of regulation needed to open and operate the facility.
She stated the business should locate in an industrial park. “I’m not against it, I am against it locating here,” Taylor said.
Commissioner Eric Hinson commented that if you were to put a dry cleaning operation in the location you would have the same requirements.
Commissioner Brenda Holt said that Pons bought the property, which is zoned commercial, with the intent to open his business. She added that if this was not what’s wanted in that location then the county’s comprehensive plan should be changed to reflect that.
Commissioner Gene Morgan stated that he had concerns earlier in the process that notices had not been properly posted but now he was comfortable with the company locating in Gadsden County. “Thankfully we had a location for this,” he said.
Chairman Doug Croley stated that when the project was remanded back through the process that it had been done fairly.
Concerning the hazards, Croley stated that he knew the company still had regulatory hurdles to cross before it could open. “I do not see this as a hazard of great peril to the community,” he said.
“I applaud an entrepreneur that comes to a community and is willing to go through this process,” Croley said.