Looking ahead of Amfuel ending operations in Wichita Falls

WICHITA FALLS - After more than a year in Wichita Falls, Amfuel will end their operations here by the end of the year. This comes just days after the the company announced filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. 

When we first broke that on Thursday,  Mayor Stephen Santellana said he was optimistic about the company eventually getting its finances rearranged and keeping the plant going. City officials have been told, the company won't be getting back on their feet in Wichita Falls.

The company received a tax incentives package totaling around $2 million from the city in 2015 to expand in town. Now, city officials are looking at what to do next to protect and recover  some of the investment.

The American Fuel Cell and Coated Fabrics company officially brought an expansion to Wichita Falls last year with intention to close their plant in Magnolia, Arkansas. Instead, they now plan to close the plant and offer the employees jobs back at their headquarters.

"The main attraction was location, proximity to the metroplex and the large amount of aerospace jobs in the general location," Amfuel interim president Britt Gourley said during their grand opening in 2016. 

That location now is closing it's doors on Dec. 31.

"During Amfuel's time here, they only accessed about 25 percent of the incentives that were agreed to with the city in the first place." Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Henry Florsheim says Amfuel was only able to take advantage of $594 thousand of their deal, most of that a no interest loan. He says some of the unused funds could go back to the city to be used in other incentive plans.

"That will go back into the unencumbered fund of the 4A board that we can then use some other project and create new employment opportunities for the citizens of Wichita Falls," Florsheim said.

The city could also take legal action to protect and recover some of its investment through secured collateral of Amfuel but Florsheim says it's up to a judge to decide where unused funds and assets could go, now that the company is under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

"When we create these economic development incentive packages, we always write in rules that basically will make us whole if things don't happen properly," Florsheim said.

He says when 4A incentives are awarded, Florsheim said there are risks involved. Although Amfuel is folding in Wichita Falls, he says there is still some positive economic impact in town and similar businesses could help. 

"Just yesterday, we signed deals with the city council that they're going to create 90-plus new industrial jobs and so the people that were working at Amfuel, they'll be able to find work elsewhere." Florsheim says if all goes as planned, he hopes any leftover incentive funds from Amfuel will go into helping the local economy.

KFDX has reached out several times to Amfuel officials for comment. 


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