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Commissioners hope incentives deal will save jobs at Freightliner plant

By Jessie Burchette
jburchette@salisburypost.com
County commissioners are expected to seal the deal Monday evening that could preserve the jobs at Freightliner’s Cleveland plant and add hundreds more.
The project would put approximately $16 million in new investment into the plant for the production of military vehicles. Officials said the resulting production needs would support the existing 695 employees and lay the foundation for potentially increasing overall employment at the plant.
An economic impact analysis prepared by the Salisbury-Rowan Economic Development Commission note new jobs created will have a base pay of $24.37 per hour. The upfit of the plant to produce military vehicles is projected to be complete by the second quarter of 2010.
The study notes that if the economy stabilizes, operations may increase by up to 150 employees. Further growth could raise the number to 413.
The study also points out the miliary project would also help protect nearly 500 additional jobs at local companies that supply Freightliner.
The Rowan County Board of Commissioners will hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. Monday to consider approving an incentive package for Daimler’s Freightliner facility.
Local officials are cautiously optimistic but have emphasized Rowan is competing with other sites in North Carolina and the U.S. that have Freightliner plants.
Gaston County officials are convinced the Freightliner project and jobs are coming to Rowan County.
According to a story published in the Gaston Gazette, both the Gaston County manager and the county’s Economic Development Commission director said they expect Freightliner to pick Rowan County.
Gaston County Manager Jan Withers said he understood the cost of retooling the Mount Holly truck manufacturing facility would be greater than the cost of making the necessary improvements to the Cleveland plant.
Gaston officials also noted Freightliner had asked for property tax incentives from Rowan. Freightliner has made no request of Gaston County for either the Mount Holly or Gastonia facility.
Under the Rowan County incentive grant policy, the new investment will qualify for the Level 1 grant which requires a minimum of $5 million investment. Under Level 1, the county will rebate 75 percent of taxes paid on new investment for five years.
During the proposed five-year incentive agreement, the facility would pay an estimated $63,000 annually in additional county taxes. The county would rebate $47,000, retaining almost $17,000 annually.
The town of Cleveland would get an estimated $22,225 in additional taxes.
At its peak in 2006, the Cleveland plant had 4,500 employees on three shifts and weekends.
Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254.

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