A manufacturing company with eyes on the old Kmart building would become a top 10 employer in Lake Havasu City, according to Partnership for Economic Development CEO James Gray.
Premiere Manufacturing, Inc., based out of Corona, California, is looking to open a manufacturing facility in Lake Havasu City with plans to move its base of operations along with it. It has identified the former Kmart building as its targeted landing spot. Owner Ryan Busnardo said the company’s main product, the Nug Smasher, has been on backorder almost since the company started producing the machines about five years ago.
On Monday during a public meeting with surrounding property owners, Busnardo said his company has a little over $1 million currently on back order. So he is motivated to move forward with the new production facility as soon as the request to rezone the property from a Commercial Healthcare District to a Commercial Healthcare District-Planned Development is processed.
“I’m back ordered, so every day that goes by we lose money and we lose market share,” Busnardo said. “I’m trying to keep that market share, I’m racing the clock.”
The rezoning request is only for Lot 1 of the shopping center, which includes the Kmart building and its parking spaces.
Busnardo said he explored purchasing a building in East Vail, California closer to his operation in Corona. He was even in escrow for a time, before ultimately decided he didn’t like the location as it was surrounded by more than a million square feet of Google buildings.
He said he has been coming to Lake Havasu City since 1989, and owns a house in The Foothills, so he was already very familiar with the area. He said after speaking with Gray, he decided to pull out of escrow in California and give Lake Havasu City a try.
“There has been no financial incentives (from the city), although we have tried,” Busnardo said with a laugh. “But the tax advantage for us is the state and federal programs that we are taking advantage of. The big advantage, quite frankly, is the state tax savings for us.”
During the meeting on Monday, Gray also explained to the 27 people gathered that the company qualifies for an Arizona quality jobs tax credit due to the amount of money Premiere Manufacturing, Inc. plans to invest in the community – about $15 million according to a video shown during the meeting – and the amount the company pays its employees. The tax credit will provide $9,000 per employee, credited at $3,000 apiece for three years.
“I can’t think of a better spot to build my team. This is where I love to spend my time, and I love the people here,” Busnardo said. “It is a city and a community that I want to be more involved with. It is like when you have a worker that clocks in and goes through the motions, then you have a worker that is there 10 minutes before, they clock in, are excited about the job and they actually care. That is the feeling that I get from everybody I have really dealt with from the city so far.”
Busnardo said the company will likely have about 60 to 80 employees after the first 12 months of operating in Lake Havasu City, but the goal is to increase to about 250 workers within about four years.
Workers will includes a wide variety of job titles for both its advanced manufacturing facility, and to populate its company offices. In addition to assembly techs, welders, engineers, solder techs, and CNC machine operators, the company also plans to employ videographers, content specialists, graphic design artists, managers, shipping specialists, electricians and more once fully operational.
Gray said 250 workers would make Premiere Manufacturing a top 10 employer within the city.
Busnardo also touted the quality of jobs provided, saying the average weekly pay in the company, including executives, is $1,600 a week with the starting pay for starting employees about $16 an hour. He said he intends to pay the same high wages in Havasu as he currently does in Corona.
“I’m not looking to save money in labor – I have a highly profitable company,” he said.
Why the Kmart building?
Although Busnardo said he is excited to bring his operation to Lake Havasu City, several of the property owners gathered asked whether there may be a more appropriate location for the company that wouldn’t require a rezoning effort.
Gray said the largest building currently available in Lake Havasu City that is not also already zoned for retail is 19,000 square feet, less than one fifth of the size of the Kmart building, and not large enough to accommodate Premiere Manufacturing’s plans.
Busnardo said the company investigated several different options, including using the Kmart on a temporary basis while they build a new facility elsewhere, but using the former Kmart building was determined to be the best option available at this time.