Tax credit program, newly expanded in Coalville, entices growing company Escapod to remain in Summit County
An East Side entrepreneurial success is expanding, and after considering locations in Salt Lake City and Park City, decided to make Coalville its new home, thanks in part to efforts from the Coalville City Council and Summit County.
Escapod is a small manufacturing company based in Wanship, where the four employees make custom “teardrop” trailers by hand. The trailers are so popular that, even though Escapod churns out about three per month, customers have to wait nearly a year-and-a-half for a new one, co-founder Chris Hudak said.
The easiest move would’ve been to relocate to Salt Lake City, where most of their suppliers are based, Hudak said. But he and his wife, Escapod co-founder Jen Hudak, wanted to stay close to their East Side home and the mountains.
While they were looking for a new spot, Summit County’s Economic Development Director Jeff Jones reached out to Chris Hudak to tell him about a program that could offer tax breaks if the firm decided to relocate closer to home.
“It mainly solidified the fact that we wanted to be in Coalville,” Hudak said of the tax incentives.
In 1988, the state Legislature enabled cities and counties to create Enterprise Zones in which businesses can earn tax credits by creating well-paying jobs — especially related to agriculture — and investing in and renovating vacant buildings.
Jones called it an important tool that helps counties and cities develop their economies by enhancing opportunities for private investment.
Coalville has had an Enterprise Zone for about 18 months, Mayor Trever Johnson said. Jones initially approached the city about starting it to help another business, a zipline company.
The Coalville City Council voted to expand the Enterprise Zone at its meeting Monday night. It now includes the former Crandall Ford dealership at 627 S. Main St., which Hudak said Escapod hopes to purchase in mid-November.
Hudak said his firm would be able to take advantage of both the investment and job-creation incentives. He anticipates extensive renovations, including tearing out the office space, redoing the showroom and adding a new roof, insulation and landscaping. Because of the Enterprise Zone designation, the first $200,000 of that work is eligible for a 25% tax credit. Investment in manufacturing equipment is also eligible for tax credits.
The tax credits do not impact the amount of money collected by the city or county and flow directly to the business or its investors when they are certified by the state.
Hudak hopes the company will move into its new digs in February and to double the workforce from four to eight people. Each new job that pays above 125% of the county average for similar positions will be eligible for $1,250 in tax breaks, with additional credits if Escapod picks up half the employee’s health insurance costs in an employer-sponsored program.
Hudak said business is going well and that he hopes to increase the number of employees to 12 in the next year.
“We’re buying a building that’s eight times the size of the building we’re currently in,” he said with a laugh. “(Business is) really good.”
Escapod manufactures custom “teardrop” trailers that feature a queen-size bed, insulated walls and doors, windows, a skylight and other creature comforts like USB chargers. The base price is $16,500, but the units can be customized to include things like a hot-water heater for showers, solar power and a 55-inch, insulated rooftop tent.
The firm is booked solid until February 2021, Hudak said, and he estimates about half of potential customers cancel their order when they hear the 15- to 17-month wait time. He hopes the move will enable the firm to increase production.
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