HARRISON, Ohio - Dividends, bonuses and salary bumps for lower-wage workers are among the more tangible results announced so far from the tax-reform act signed by President Donald Trump in December.
To that list JTM Food Group is adding 30 new kinds of macaroni and cheese.
“How do you like that?” said JTM President Tony Maas. “We’re doing a Mac over.”
Maas celebrated the grand opening Monday of a $26.1 million expansion of its Harrison food-processing plant, which racked up $170 million in revenue last year from retailers, schools, corporate and military clients.
Maas said the plant will create up to 100 new jobs and nearly double JTM’s manufacturing capacity to 185 million pounds of kettle-cooked food. But it will also deliver more packaging flexibility so JTM can quickly bring new product ideas to market, starting with mac and cheese.
“A big part of this plant is a mixing system of how we’re going to be making our pasta-based items,” Maas said. “It could be spaghetti sauce … or cheese and pasta. It could be vegetables in cheese sauces or butter sauces. So, those items are ramping up. The technology we brought in is working splendidly.”
The project was fully financed before tax reform took effect this year, so its lower tax rates didn't enable the new plant. But it will benefit from friendlier rules on depreciation of new equipment and lower tax rates that enable new hiring and higher wages.
Maas told WCPO in January 2017 that state, local and federal taxes consumed more than half of company profits at JTM, a family-owned company with a corporate structure that passes through corporate income to individual owners. Maas estimated tax reform will reduce the total tax liability of the family enterprise by 5 to 7 percent.
Maas said starting wages at JTM will rise beyond their current level of $13 to $20 per hour, but didn't offer a specific timetable for that wage growth. And he expects it will be easier to embark on future expansions, perhaps as early as 2019.
JTM’s new Harrison plant opened with one new production line under roof and room for a second. The company has enough land to accommodate four more production lines in the next 10 years.
“We’re trying to do the right thing regardless, tax break or no tax break,” he said. “I’d rather put the money into the growth of the company and employment base than to wasteful tax dollars, you bet."