MARENGO- Earlier this week Tuesday-Thursday, August 23-25, Laborers’ Local 1216 and the North Central Ohio Building Trades held an informational picket at HM Construction’s distribution spec building in Marengo.

The building is located on I-71 and State Route 61 in Morrow County.

The purpose of the informational picket was due to the concern of the estimated $75 million project not using local union building trades.

In a press release from from Laborers’ International Union of North America Local 1216 it stated:

HM’s tactics represent an increasingly common pattern of irresponsible employers seeking to profit from Ohio communities: bringing in cheap labor from down south where wages and working conditions do not come close to Ohio’s area standards that our building trades unions have worked long and hard to establish. This not only cheats our local workforce but brings in under-trained and therefore unsafe workers, which makes for a dangerous construction site. Only HM’s executives profit while Ohio workers and the workers shipped in from out-of-state suffer.

Our message is clear – H & M’s affront to Ohio workers will not stand. Construction workers deserve family-sustaining wages, benefits, and strong safety standards and we have won such standards for Ohio by standing united. Now, Laborers’ Local 1216 and area building trades are coming together to say NO to corporate greed and YES to union power.”

Laborers’ International Union of North America Local 1216 is based out of Mansfield and serves union workers in Richland, Crawford, Knox, Ashland and Morrow Counties.

Business Manager of Laborers’ International Union of North America Local 1216 Jeff Sellers explained one of the main reasons for the informational picket.

“We were made aware of the construction site and were told there were about 100 plus workers out there. To our estimate, about 95 percent of the workers are from outside of Ohio. There are a lot of license plates from different states including Texas, Tennessee and Oklahoma. We just want to raise awareness to community members and county commissioners that the workers out here are not local. All the money coming from this will leave the area from this project. That just hurts our community,” Sellers said.

Sellers added multiple attempts were made to reach out to HM, however, no one contacted him. Sellers estimated during the three day picketing event, there were about 30-60 in attendance each day.

“We just feel that the work should stay here locally,” Sellers said.

HM Company Secretary/Treasurer Michael Farris provided information regarding the company which included stating HM is a privately owned 65 year old design build construction company based in Jackson, Tennessee.

“We do work all over the country ranging from 400,000 to 2,000,000 square foot distribution centers to complex concrete, steel, or other manufacturing facilities. Our clients are generally Fortune 200 public companies with excellent employee packages,” Farris stated.

Farris explained HM is a general contractor who uses qualified sub-contractors to complete their projects.

“All projects are delivered with safety, quality, schedule, and costs as the primary focuses,” Farris stated. “On the first project that is underway in Morrow County, we have engaged two union contractors to date. With this being our initial project and HM being somewhat unknown in the area, we had some difficulties getting our sub-contractors to bid the project. They are all too busy and backlogged with work in Columbus. We will always take bids from any qualified sub-contractor.”

Farris continued and explained the value of the investment being made to Morrow County.

“HMD and HM are making a significant investment in Morrow County and it should result in untold local jobs for years to come. We provide a safe work environment and use as many local resources, suppliers, and sub-contractors as possible. We look forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationships with Morrow County and all other parties,” Farris stated.

The Morrow County Commissioners released a statement and explained Morrow County was open for business.

“We like to say that Morrow County is open for business. And we especially like to say that when folks invest $75 million here, as they create 180 permanent jobs, with an average annual compensation of more than $48,000,” the statement read.

Continuing on in their statement, the commissioners explained how HM has worked with the county.

“Since first meeting with the county, and sharing their plans to make major, ongoing investments in our community, HMW Logistics from Tennessee has worked diligently to make sure that they obtain all necessary permits and approvals for completing a first class project. It appears they are well on their way to doing just that. We thank HMW Logistics for their investment here, their professional conduct, and for the tremendous, long-term good that will come from the permanent, better-paying jobs their project will make possible,” the statement concluded.

In a press release from the Morrow County Development Office, it was stated The Morrow County Commissioners will meet in special session on Thursday, September 1, 2022 at 1 p.m. in the Commissioners’ Hearing Room to consider approval of a 10- year, 50% tax abatement for a $75 million distribution facility that would create 180 jobs with a $8.75 million payroll near the State Route 61-Interstate 71 interchange.

The press release stated that currently being constructed is a 707,940 square foot distribution center that is along Cardinal Drive, west of State Route 61 and south of the Dollar Tree Distribution Center.

Continuing on in the press release it stated, the draft Community Reinvestment Area agreement that would be under consideration by the commissioners at the September 1 special meeting suggests that the project site could expand by 488,601 square feet for a total size of nearly 1.2 million square feet. Such an expansion would require an updated CRA agreement to abate the additional space.

An informational picket took place this week on I-71 and State Route 61 in Morrow County. informational picket took place this week on I-71 and State Route 61 in Morrow County. Photo submitted

By Mindy McKenzie

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