Purely Meat owner Owner Maribel Moreno-Musillami (left_ and attorney Chris Kentra (right) make their case to the Forest Park Village Council | Credit: Igor Studenkov/Staff Reporter

Purely Meat, a meat wholesaler and butcher shop that has been based in Chicago for over 80 years, officially asked the village to support its application for Class 6(b) Cook County property tax incentive classification as it looks to move its food processing and warehouse operations to Forest Park, at 7500 Industrial Drive.

The company acquired the warehouse in February 2022 and applied for the incentive later that year. But the village subsequently discovered that meat processing wasn’t allowed in the village’s industrial zoning districts. The village council changed the zoning code to make it a permitted use during its Feb. 27 meeting, allowing Purely Meat to resume the process.

Owner Maribel Moreno-Musillami and company attorney Chris Kentra made their case during the June 26 village council meeting. They said the company would create jobs, but it needs a tax break to offset the costs of buying and renovating the building. While the council didn’t take any action during that meeting, officials generally expressed support for the company’s plan.

In Cook County, the property tax rates are based on what type of property it is. Class 6(b) classification is one of several classifications designed to incentivize development by temporarily reducing the tax rate. In this case, the county encourages building new industrial facilities and renovating the existing industrial facilities by lowering the tax rate from 25% of market value to 10% for 10 years. The assessment then increases by 5% a year over the next three years until it returns to 25%.

While it is up to the Cook County Assessor’s Office to decide whether to grant it, applicants must get support from the local municipality first.

The previous building owner, Bolingbrook-based 2XL Corporation, a maker of disinfectant products, acquired the property in May 2019, intending to use it as their new manufacturing facility. It applied for a Class 6(b) designation to offset the costs of the building renovations, and the village council voted to support it in April 2020. But the County Assessor never acted on the application, and the company never finished the renovations “because of COVID-related financial issues and delays and other challenges” and sold the building to Purely Meat.

The company is currently based in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood, 4345 W. Division St. It sells meat products to restaurants and grocery stores, and during the pandemic it expanded to selling products to individual customers online. Moreno-Musillami told the council that, while they struggled at the height of the COVID-19 mitigation restrictions, they have since bounced back, generating $62 million in sales.

“Because of that, we need a bigger facility, and we’re very happy to move out here in Forest Park, and 6(b) will help us a lot,” she said.

Moreno-Musillami said the new facility will create jobs. According to their application, Purely Meat employed “20-25” full-time employees and five part-time employees last year. The company is expected to create 5-8 additional full-time jobs and 3-5 additional part-time jobs.

According to the original application in 2022, Purely Meat expected the renovations to cost around $1.97 million. Kentra described the current cost of repairs as “a couple of million dollars.” Given all the money they spent and plan to spend, he said, the tax break was necessary to make the numbers work.

“The amount of money they spent on the building and the current margins of the meat business, this is really a necessity,” Kentra said. “They can’t operate their business and complete their business plan to expand, and become a productive piece of Forest Park if we’re not able to obtain this designation.”