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Miller Metal offered $5M Sussex County loan

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Miller Metal Fabrication was awarded $5 million in Sussex County loans to develop a Bridgeville in a new warehouse. | PHOTO COURTESY MILLER METAL FABRICATION

BRIDGEVILLE — Sussex County has offered its largest county loan to date to assist Miller Metal Fabrication to build a new warehouse and consolidate operations.

The Sussex County Council approved an offer of a $5 million loan from the ExciteSussex Fund on Tuesday, a culmination of a four-year endeavor by Sussex County Economic Development Director Bill Pfaff. But Miller Metal Fabrication has yet to accept the loan, as other financing options are also on the table.

“We requested financing from various sources, and we have not received all of the information from the financial institutions that are participating. We have not made a final decision,” Miller Metal Fabrication senior account manager Martin Miller III said.

Miller Metal Fabrication is seeking funding to build a new 60,000-square-foot warehouse that will give the manufacturer room to grow its operations on a 25-acre parcel at the intersection of U.S. Route 13 and Newton Road, next to its existing warehouse. The new facility will double its existing space.

The hope is that the manufacturer will be able to close its second location in Greensboro, Md., and relocate its staff to Bridgeville and hire another 20 employees, Pfaff said. 

That would mean the new Bridgeville warehouse would have 141 employees in all, compared to the 111 employees at the moment.

Miller Metal was founded in 1984 by Martin Miller Jr., a food processing equipment inventor who created manufacturing solutions such as machines that twisted pretzels and packed potatoes. Translating that success in machinery, Miller Metal first started as a 2,500-square-foot shop in a Bridgeville backyard.

Per 2020 figures, Miller Metal does about $18 million in sales annually, and historic customers include Volvo, Vulcan, Baltimore Aircoil, and the U.S. Department of Defense. 

“This is a great public benefit, but it’s outside of the original scope of the program,” Pfaff told the council.

The Excite Sussex Fund was launched in 2018 as a joint venture with Discover Bank and the National Development Council to incentivize small and large businesses to move operations to Sussex County. Eligible businesses must have at least 10 full-time employees and have been in operation for at least two years.

Loan amounts range between $250,000 and $1 million with a 4% interest rate. The payback period ranges from 10 years, if the loan is used toward personal property like machinery or equipment, to 25 years, if the loan is used toward real property acquisition or renovation.

The top loan Excite Sussex offered to date is $1.4 million to Tail Bangers, a boutique dog treat business, to buy land in Millsboro and expand operations.

The loan operates on a match basis from Discover Bank and the Grow Delaware Fund, managed by the National Development Council, but Pfaff was able to package out the incentive offer to Miller Metal. The Grow Delaware Fund will front $2.5 million, Discover Bank will cover $1.8 million and Sussex County will pay for $625,000.

Miller Metal was also granted $313,000 from the Transportation Infrastructure Investment Fund (TIIF) Council in 2020 to construct a new entrance that will not disrupt traffic on Newton Road.

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