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Commissioners to meet with Toyota reps about investment deal

By Mark Wineka

Salisbury Post

Economic development officials in Rowan County hope Toyota Racing Development can close the deal on a Peach Orchard Road site by Jan. 22.

But first company representatives will attend a public hearing Tuesday night when the Rowan County Board of Commissioners consider an investment grant for Toyota.

The proposed incentive would give Toyota Racing Development a $519,750 property tax rebate over five years on a company investment of $22 million.

Randy Harrell, executive director of the Salisbury-Rowan EDC, said he’s optimistic commissioners will approve the investment grant and, with some other approvals in Raleigh, clear the way for Toyota to close on the property later this month.

Toyota Racing Development plans to build a 35,000-square-foot engineering and design facility on about 10 acres of the 89-acre site. The facility will support Toyota racing teams, including its new NASCAR Nextel Cup entries and Craftsman Truck Series competitors.

Toyota officials have said they would set aside 30 acres for a second phase expansion of the engineering facility. A conceptual site plan of the property shows the possibility of an additional 75,000-square-foot building, but that’s not a guarantee.

The company has no plans for the remaining acreage, but both Toyota and EDC officials hope the presence of the racing development facility will attract other racing-related businesses to the site.

“We need to be following them around like a puppy,” Jack Owens said at the EDC’s annual retreat Wednesday. “… That’s a real catalyst for us.”

Harrell said he hopes Rowan Countians have a grasp of how important Toyota Racing Development could be. “Let’s just hope it will go where we think it could go,” he said.

The new facility would create about 40 jobs. Of those, 25 employees would come from the company’s High Point facility, which will stay in operation.

In all, the Rowan facility would create 15 new jobs. The average annual salary at the plant would be about $70,000.

Company officials have said the Peach Orchard Road building could take a couple of years to complete. Harrell said initial plans had site preparation beginning in March.

At their retreat, held at Catawba College, EDC members reviewed what Harrell described as one of the county’s best years in economic development over the past decade.

The 2006 highlights included the Toyota announcement, a completed expansion at National Starch and Chemical, Food Lion’s announcement of a headquarters expansion and renovation, the landing of PGT Industries to fill the closed GDX plant, Iowa Spring’s location in the former Wellington Leisure Products building in Granite Quarry and the relocation of Square D to a new facility at the county-owned Summit Corporate Center.

Also in 2006, the city and county adopted an investment grant policy, the Rowan Jobs Initiative’s “Available for Work” marketing campaign went into full swing, the EDC took steps to become involved with the biotech research campus in Kannapolis and Rowan County had interest from film makers and companies looking to base their fleets or build hangars at the airport.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or mwineka@salisburypost.com.

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