Dietz puts N.J. on hold as it awaits call from Pa.

The Dietz & Watson fire in Delanco last September took hundreds of firefighters two days to control. Firm president Louis Eni had said the company wanted to rebuild at the site, but he now looks for a Pa. offer.
The Dietz & Watson fire in Delanco last September took hundreds of firefighters two days to control. Firm president Louis Eni had said the company wanted to rebuild at the site, but he now looks for a Pa. offer. (RON CORTES / Staff Photographer)
Posted: February 28, 2014

Hold the relish, New Jersey: Dietz & Watson wants to hear back from its other suitor, Pennsylvania, before it decides where to locate a new distribution facility that would bring hundreds of jobs.

New Jersey officials announced an offer of $30.85 million in yearly tax credits this week in hope the deli giant would replace its huge storage and distribution plant in Delanco that was gutted by a fire in September.

On Wednesday, however, Dietz's president, Louis Eni, said his company was waiting on an offer from Pennsylvania before deciding where to locate the plant.

"We are awaiting word from the city and from the governor's action team on what assistance may be available in Pennsylvania," Eni said in an e-mail.

On Sept. 1, fire destroyed the 260,000-square-foot plant. In the weeks after the 11-alarm blaze, Eni said repeatedly he preferred to rebuild on the Cooperstown Road site.

But on Wednesday, he said his Philadelphia-based meat and cheese processing company is "continuing to do our due diligence to find the location that works best for the company."

"We are considering our Delanco site as well as location in the city of Philadelphia, which has been our home for 75 years," he said.

Eni expects to make a decision by spring.

New Jersey's Economic Development Authority offered Dietz a credit of $30.85 million per year for 10 years on its state corporate tax as an incentive to stay.

The company applied for the credit, according to the authority's president and chief operating officer, Tim Lizura. He said the company presented plans for a 160,000-square-foot meat storage plant, a 25,000-square-foot office building, and a 16,000-square-foot garage.

The tax credit was calculated on the company's pledge that it would retain 135 full-time jobs at the facility and add 213, with a median annual income of $40,000. Most of the new jobs would be at the office, according to the application.

The authority's analysis also concluded that the credits would provide a benefit to the state at least 10 percent beyond their cost. According to a summary issued by the authority, the project would have a net benefit to New Jersey of $124 million over 20 years.

"There isn't much discretion" in the calculation, Lizura said. "You either meet [the criteria set by] statute or you don't."

Last year, Delanco received about $214,000 in local property taxes from Dietz, or nearly 4 percent of its $5 million operating budget. The state tax credits would not reduce the company's property tax bill.

After the September fire, which took hundreds of local firefighters two days to control and spoiled 10 million pounds of meat, Dietz relocated some of its storage and distribution to facilities in Vineland, N.J., and South Carolina.

The company's headquarters and main plant are in Philadelphia's Tacony section, where it employs 500 full-time workers. It also produces the Black Bear line of deli meats and cheeses.

Although the fire appeared to begin on the plant's roof, Burlington County Fire Marshal Michael Reed said Wednesday the cause was still under investigation by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.


doreilly@phillynews.com

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