The Berks County Industrial Development Authority has approved a $9.5 million, low-interest loan for F.M. Brown & Sons Inc. to construct a new feed mill in Birdsboro, and to buy machinery and equipment used in livestock-feed manufacturing.
"We want to keep them in business," Thomas C. McKeon, the authority's executive director, said of the firm that has occupied a building on South Furnace Street since 1927. "Just about every farmer has their own specific feed mix prepared there."
McKeon said key factors in the agency's decision included retention of 35 jobs and the company's importance to the agricultural community.
He thanked Sheila Miller, county agricultural coordinator, for connecting the authority to the company's needs.
Also on Monday, the authority approved a new agreement of sale to buy 147 acres from the Reading Regional Airport Authority for $2.66 million.
The land is targeted for a proposed $47 million industrial research park slated to focus on agriculture, food processing and energy storage that authority officials say has the potential of creating 2,000 jobs and benefiting the county and region in many other ways.
McKeon said the authority since 2009 had planned to buy four parcels, but the agreement drops three of them along Route 183 to expedite approvals needed from the Federal Aviation Administration. The four parcels would have cost $5.1 million, he said.
The transaction should be completed this fall, he said, with the money significantly helping the airport to continue its operations, which now are losing $200,000 a year.
The board authorized McKeon to seek a $2 million federal grant to help fund basic improvements at the authority's Bethel industrial park.
The 323-acre site, which is obtaining its final permits and will be ready for construction soon, is seeking to: add an entrance along Route 501; partially complete an access road to serve lot No. 1; add a water tower and pumps for a fire protection system; and make sanitary sewer improvements and add electric service.
McKeon said the estimated cost of the improvements is $6.7 million, or $2.1 million more than the authority has available.