The planned sale of a local maker of parts for automobile air bags hinges on approval from Nassau County, officials said Thursday.
Johnson & Hoffman, a metal-stamping business in Carle Place, wants to continue receiving tax breaks from the county's industrial development agency after it is sold to a family-owned investment company.
The issue facing IDA officials is that Johnson & Hoffman didn't create any of the 20 jobs it promised in exchange for tax-exempt bond financing and tax breaks in 2007. The 66-year-old company has 79 workers, the same number it had in 2007 but more than when the recession caused layoffs, the IDA said.
Jade Holdings Inc., the Pennsylvania-based owner of Johnson & Hoffman for the past 10 years, has asked the IDA to waive the 20-job commitment and forgive fines for not meeting that requirement.
Jade chief executive Brian Manley said Thursday Johnson & Hoffman had bounced back from the recession to its mid-2000s level of employment and sales of about $15 million. However, the company is unlikely to take on many more employees, he said.
"It's a big challenge in this competitive manufacturing environment," said Manley, who grew up in Smithtown.
He said the IDA has to "consent" to the acquisition by Ansaco LLC of Manhattan and Maryland for Johnson & Hoffman to receive the final two years of a 10-year property-tax break.
IDA board members said Tuesday they want to keep the business in Nassau with at least 79 employees. But they are worried that Johnson & Hoffman will be moved once the tax breaks end, and that other IDA clients will ask for waivers of job promises.
"The taxpayers of Nassau County helped this company, and they never got what was promised: 20 jobs," said IDA board chairman Timothy Williams. "If we are going to give you more time, then we will hold you to the number of jobs that you have now."
Board member Gary Weiss vowed to severely penalize Ansaco if Johnson & Hoffman leaves: "If they leave the county, all bets are off."
The board Tuesday authorized IDA director Joseph J. Kearney to secure a commitment that Johnson & Hoffman employ a minimum of 79 workers for at least six more years.
Jade's Manley said Thursday that he sought IDA help in 2007 to purchase and renovate the Johnson & Hoffman building on Voice Road. The project was valued up to $6.5 million.
He said Ansaco has agreed to a 22-year lease on the building. "They aren't coming in to acquire Johnson & Hoffman and then to sell it . . . They take a long view."
Ansaco officials couldn't be reached.
Johnson & Hoffman also has received help from New York State and is now in compliance with employment promises tied to that aid.
In 2010, Empire State Development granted the company a one-year reprieve from penalties when it fell below its job commitment, a state official said, adding Johnson & Hoffman only qualified for half of a $200,000 grant because it never hired more workers.