City Backs Ren Zone Amendment

    GRAND RAPIDS — City commissioners Tuesday agreed to amend a Renaissance Zone contract with Keeler Brass Co. to give the company more time to meet the job creation requirements of the agreement.

    The original Renaissance Zone Expansion Development Agreement struck between the city and Keeler Brass on Oct. 15, 2001, required the company to invest $2.75 million in capital equipment for its plant at 955 Godfrey Ave. SW.

    That part of the bargain has been met.

    A second provision of the agreement required Keeler Brass to create 35 new jobs in addition to retaining a base employment level of 375 workers.

    But last month, the company requested a five-year extension on the job creation deadline.

    Keeler Brass President John Pelka stated in a letter to the city’s Economic Development Office that the company has added 99 new jobs at its Godfrey Street plant.

    Of those, he said, 62 jobs were transferred from the company’s brass foundry and finishing operation in Jamestown, N.Y., and 37 salaried and management employees were transferred from its Belwith distribution facility in Grandville.

    “While we’ve added these new positions, the existing work force has declined from 375 employees to 210 employees due to very difficult prevailing business conditions,” he wrote.

    Pelka said the company foresees opportunities to increase employment over the next several years, in part due to pending legislation that could benefit U.S. furniture manufacturers, and in part due to the fact that the company is pursuing new business unrelated to furniture manufacturing.

    He said Keeler Brass also performs finishing operations for its Period Brass line of hardware, and that business is expected to increase in the future, as well.

    But the overall increase in employment will take time to develop, Pelka noted.

    The Economic Development Office subsequently recommended, and the City Commission agreed, to extend the deadline to create 35 jobs to Dec. 31, 2006, rather than to March 31, 2009, as Keeler Brass had requested.           

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