CARTHAGE, Mo. — A national boot manufacturer is working to take over a plant in Carthage that was closed by another manufacturer earlier in 2020.
The Carthage City Council heard on first reading a recommendation from the Carthage/Jasper County Enhanced Enterprise Zone Board to approve property tax breaks for the Belleville Boot Co., based in Belleville, Illinois, for improvements to the former Justin Boot factory located at 2236 Missouri Ave. in Carthage.
The council is expected to give the tax breaks final approval at its meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Phone messages left last week with Belleville company officials were not returned.
According to information in the application for the tax breaks, the company is looking to buy and renovate the former Justin Boot factory, and bring as many as 158 new jobs to the city at an average annual wage of $32,688, with a total payroll of about $5.1 million annually. Full-time employees will also be offered health benefits.
The company is expected to invest about $2.7 million purchasing and renovating the Carthage plant, with about $350,000 being eligible for the proposed tax breaks.
The tax incentives are expected to cost the city, the Carthage School District and Jasper County $3,500 per year over 10 years, or a total of $35,000.
The Enhanced Enterprise Zone law requires that the company create at least two jobs at a wage exceeding the county average wage for 12 months.
According to its website, the company was founded in 1904 in Belleville and received its first contract for military footwear from the federal government in 1917 during World War I. It produced boots for the military again during World War II and expanded into athletic footwear in the 1960s. The company says it is the oldest and leading provider of combat boots to the U.S. military.
The company three manufacturing operations — one in Belleville, one in DeWitt, Arkansas, and one in Forest City, Arkansas. The Carthage plant would be the company’s first expansion into Missouri.
Justin Boot closure
Justin Boot employed 171 people at the plant when it closed permanently in June. The plant was one of the 14 largest employers in Carthage when it closed.
In a state Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification letter, filed by Justin Boot on March 31, the company said it closed the Carthage and Cassville plants on March 20, but it hoped to reemploy the workers when it reopened the operations, “hopefully in less than six months. However, due to the ongoing unprecedented public health crisis, concerning the coronavirus, it is uncertain when and/or whether this will occur.”
In early July, the company announced it would permanently close the factories.
“The closure of the Justin and Chippewa factories in Cassville and Carthage, Missouri, was a difficult decision brought on by unprecedented times,” the company said on social media. “Unfortunately, the economic reality has forced us to make hard decisions that are necessary to sustain the legacy of our brands long into the future. We recognize the skill that has gone into the footwear produced in Missouri over the years, which is why we have asked our Missouri workers to consider the possibility of relocating to one of our other factories. Making high-quality boots is an art, and we value their skill, loyalty and dedication.”