Rowan commissioners OK incentives for Magna expansion

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Lee Barnes
“Incentives” may be a dirty word in parts of the state, but the Rowan County Board of Commissioners voted Monday to give Magna Composites a tax break, saying that creating and preserving jobs are the top priority.
The vote was unanimous, with no one speaking against the proposal.
The next step is the state ponying up with its own incentives package. Company officials expect an answer within 30 days.
Magna Composites plans to spend $7.8 million adding to and upgrading its plant at 6701 Statesville Blvd. The plant will expand to accommodate a consolidation of Meridian Automotive Systems, which Magna bought in June.
Magna makes molded body parts for vehicles, including trucks and golf carts.
The company says the expansion could bring 162 new full-time jobs to the county. The jobs would pay an average of $19.20 an hour, or more than $39,000 per year.
Under the county’s economic incentives grant program, for five years Rowan would give back 75 percent of the property taxes Magna pays on its expansion ó about $161,000.
After five years, the county would retain the entire tax collection and, in the 10 years following approval of the request, would receive an estimated $213,927 in property taxes.
A company official added that the county might need to help out with workforce training for the new jobs.
The company must perform to receive the grants, and the county can cancel at any time.
Magna currently has 198 full-time workers in Rowan County. The company says it would like to convert many of its 60 temporary positions here to full-time jobs as part of the expansion.
Renovations to the plant would begin in 2010.
Magna plans to consolidate Meridian Automotive’s operations from states across the U.S. into three facilities in North Carolina: Salisbury, Newton and Lenoir. The total cost of the consolidation is estimated at $8.8 million.
Financial incentives have come under renewed criticism since Dell announced recently that it will close its desktop computer plant near Winston-Salem and lay off all 900 workers by the end of January. Dell has agreed to repay $30 million in tax breaks it had already received.
Critics say the Dell closing is another example of why Google shouldn’t get $90 million in incentives for opening an Internet data center in Lenoir.
But Monday, the Magna proposal had no critics.
“It’s not just picking up jobs,” said Commissioner Raymond Coltrain. “It’s about protecting existing jobs.”