BRIDGEVILLE — Time will tell if it’s an offer too good to refuse.
On Tuesday, an effort several years in the works reached Sussex County Council, which approved county Economic Director William Pfaff’s recommendation to offer a $5 million loan to Bridgeville-based Miller Metal Fabrication Inc. through the ExciteSussex Loan Program.
“This,” said Mr. Pfaff, “is just an offer. They need to review all offers they have on the table. Today, we wanted to get the OK from council to make the offer.”
The $5 million proposition — comprised of $2.5 million from Sussex County’s program and $2.5 million from the Grow Delaware Fund — is well beyond the scope of the ExciteSussex program, established through a 3-to-1 match partnership with Discover Bank and ranging from $250,000 to $1 million.
Mr. Pfaff explained the difference: “Because we were limited when we set our fund up, we set parameters that we would lend out a minimum of $250,000 to a maximum of a million. This is like a $6-plus million project. This is a $5 million loan on the project. Because our program only went to $1 million, … I packaged it out. It is still one loan we have offered through our fund. It’s still one loan, but the money is coming from two different funds — our fund and the Grow Delaware Fund.”
Miller Metal’s Chief Financial Officer Mike Elehwany said the company is exploring its options.
“It’s available to us, but we’re not sure we’re going to take it,” he said. “We are looking at some different options. We are exploring commercial banks, … as well.”
The manufacturer’s owner, Marty Miller, agreed, saying, “We do have different proposals coming from a couple different banks around.”
In his presentation and request to council, Mr. Pfaff said Miller Metal Fabrication meets ExciteSussex’s priority criteria, including public benefit through employment.
According to Mr. Pfaff, Miller Metal currently employs 111 people.
“There is a Greensboro, Maryland, operation that he plans to bring to Bridgeville, and there are 20 employees there. And he also is planning to hire 10 to 20 new jobs,” Mr. Pfaff said. “I went on the low end — 10 jobs — (so) that’s 141 employees in Bridgeville. It’s a great public benefit.”
Mr. Miller said plans are to eventually cease operations at the Greensboro facility.
“We’re going to be bringing that here. Actually, I have a couple different places, because we’re so limited in capacity, that we are subbing quite a bit of stuff out. The stuff that’s in the shop in Maryland would close down,” he said. “It is terribly inefficient going back and forth. We have a little shuttle truck that drives stuff over all day long to Greensboro. So that would all shut down, and I would do everything in Bridgeville.
“I was born and raised in Delaware, so this is where I want to be — in Delaware,” added Mr. Miller, whose fabrication business has been a staple for several decades.
County Council’s approval of the loan offer was unanimous.
Under the 3-to-1 match, Sussex County’s portion of the $2.5 million loan would be $625,000 with Discover Bank covering the remaining $1,875,000.
“It’s a great story,” said County Councilman John Rieley, who asked Sussex County Finance Director/Chief Operating Officer Gina Jennings if she was comfortable with the loan proposal.
“Yes, absolutely,” said Ms. Jennings.
In addition to creation and retention of permanent full-time jobs as a public benefit, ExciteSussex requires that a business be in one of three Sussex County economic-development zones: Nanticoke, Broadkill or Indian River.
Miller Metal, based behind the O.A. Newton complex along Sussex Highway in Bridgeville, is in the Nanticoke Zone in western Sussex County.
ExciteSussex funding can be used for bricks and mortar/new construction, equipment and also repairs to existing property, including that which is leased.
Established about four years ago, the ExciteSussex Loan Program began with $4 million — $3 million through Discover Bank and $1 million from the county. It was subsequently increased to a $16 million revolving loan program with an additional $12 million, which included a $3 million county contribution and an additional $9 million from Discover.
The National Development Council manages the ExciteSussex initiative, Ms. Jennings said.