Muscle Shoals council members will be asked today to abate non-education taxes to help expand Walgreens’ call center at Southgate Mall, a project that could create at least 250 more jobs during the next three years, officials said.
Walgreens has been planning an expansion since 2011, with the project either at its Muscle Shoals’ operation or at a similar facility in Florida. Company officials have not announced where the expansion will occur, but seeking the tax abatements from Muscle Shoals is viewed as a critical step in the process.
The Shoals Economic Development Authority has requested to be placed on the City Council’s meeting agenda Monday, with the stated purpose involving a tax abatement.
Walgreens has about 220 workers at the Muscle Shoals call center, which opened in 2004. Employees provide assistance for the company’s retail stores and answer questions regarding customer drug plans, among other duties.
Muscle Shoals Mayor David Bradford confirmed city leaders will discuss a tax abatement tonight, but declined to confirm that Walgreens had made the request.
“It’s about a potential project involving new jobs,” Bradford said. “We’ve been working with (the Shoals Economic Development Authority) and other elected officials on this.”
SEDA Executive Director Forrest Wright said seeking the tax abatement is the “next step in the process of Walgreens’ expansion project.” He reiterated that the company has not announced where the new project will be housed and that several options are possible.
“This is not an announcement,” Wright said. “If the city grants the request, (Walgreens) will continue the dialogue with the state and others. This needs to be done before moving forward.”
Details of Walgreens’ request were not immediately available, but tax abatements usually involve property and sales taxes and are available for a 10-year period. The company will pay all education-related taxes.
The expansion investment in Muscle Shoals is estimated to be more than $3 million. That would include expanding the facility and purchasing equipment.
Muscle Shoals came close to being eliminated from consideration for the project earlier this legislative session.
A bill to license the Walgreens call center met resistance from some legislators. House Bill 393 allowed the Alabama Board of Pharmacy to create a pharmacy services permit for the call center.
The facility operated without the permit since opening eight years ago, but the pharmacy board stepped in and said it should be regulating the operation. At the time, the board only permitted facilities where medicines are kept or dispensed. Neither of those is the case at the call center.
Amendments were attached to the House bill, which jeopardized passage. Members of the local legislative delegation were able to work out the differences and pass the bill, an effort Wright said was critical in the process.
Mike Goens can be reached at 256-740-5740 or mike.goens@TimesDaily.com.