EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Igus Inc. makes the parts you’ve never thought of in the gear you can’t live without: cables, ball bearings, screws and nuts that help make your robot vacuum cleaner glide across the floor, your truck to steer safely on a highway or your tractor trundle safely across a field.
They’ll be doing it at a much larger footprint in East Providence after a vote Monday night. The city’s Planning Board signed off on the master development plan for a $200 million, 707,000-square-foot expansion of the manufacturer in the Rumford section of the city between Newport Avenue and the Ten Mile River Greenway.
With the latest expansion that got an early OK Monday, it would reach about a million square feet and become the biggest industrial development in the city’s history, according to Bill Fazioli, the city’s director of planning and economic development.
“It really just furthers our continued growth of a new generation of manufacturing in East Providence,” Fazioli said.
Igus’ parent company is based in Germany. It specializes in what are called self-lubricating plastics that don’t need oil or grease. It recently unveiled a bike made of recycled plastic — one that doesn’t require the greasy fingers involved in fixing a busted bike chain on a typical bicycle. Igus has been in East Providence for about 30 years, according to city officials, and most recently expanded around 10 years ago.
The Planning Board voted 5 to 0 to approve the project’s master plan. The approval means the high-level plan meets city requirements; the company will have to come back to the board again as the project moves forward and gets more granular in its detail.
In the first phase, the company would expand to a now-vacant site nearby with a roughly 160,000 square foot building. It’s across freight train tracks from the current 257 Ferris Avenue site. The project will move south from there, encompassing a site that was once used to make disposable dinner plates, among other tenants. The expansion will reach 707,000 square feet total in addition to the current 300,000 or so square feet in the area. Construction on the first phase could start as soon as 2023, and the full buildout could span into the next decade, the developer told the city.
Igus, which employed about 350 people as of February, could apply for a property tax bill reduction under city law. It’s a standard program in the city. Under the program, the city administration can approve a five-year reduction in which they’d pay nothing in taxes in their first year on a new building, with the property tax bill increasing by 20 percent each year over five years. Igus can also get a 10-year reduction if they elect to go before the City Council. That process, if the company elects to use it, will come at a later date.
Without a tax stabilization agreement, the $200 million buildout would generate $5 million in property taxes annually, the city projects, while creating about 150 direct jobs and potentially hundreds more.
Mayor Bob DaSilva said the knock-on effects could be huge: Already, an Igus supplier, a French company called Nexans, moved to Narragansett Park Drive in East Providence just to be closer.
“We’re very excited about it,” DaSilva said.
The company did not respond to requests for comment about its plans.