Incentives could lure Toyota to Rowan

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 3, 2009

By Jessie Burchette

Salisbury Post

A plan by Toyota to locate its race production center on Peach Orchard Road in Rowan County hinges on $500,000 in tax rebates.

Toyota is expected to invest about $22 million in the first phase and create 40 jobs with an average annual salary of $70,000 each.

Officials of Toyota divisions — including Race Development — met with the Rowan County Board of Commissioners on Monday to outline plans to purchase the 89-acre W.A. Cline property.

“This will clearly establish Rowan County as a new nucleus for the racing business in North Carolina,” said Sanford Smith, a Toyota official involved in selecting the site.

Toyota conducted a multi-state search and then narrowed the finalists to counties near Charlotte, including Cabarrus, Gaston, Iredell and Mecklenburg as well as Rowan. Initially 21 sites in the five counties were considered, with the short list cut to four sites within Cabarrus, Iredell and Rowan.

David Wilson, vice president of Toyota Racing Development, talked about Toyota’s commitment to racing and its evolution from GTO style racing in 1983 to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and to Nextel beginning next February.

Toyota will have 21 cars and trucks in NASCAR racing in the upcoming year.

Wilson stressed that Toyota sees NASCAR as the future and came looking to Rowan County for, “Our roots, our foundation.”

Randy Harrell, executive director of the Salisbury-Rowan Economic Development Commission, outlined the incentive grant.

Under the county’s policy, the project will qualify for a 75 percent rebate of taxes paid on the investment for five years.

On the $22 million investment, the incentive from the county would total $519,750.

Harrell acknowledged that Toyota does have a Phase II in the planning stages, but said he could not talk about it at this time.

A rough rendering of the property indicated several buildings spread over the site.

Smith, the Toyota official, said the first phase will be a 35,000-square-foot building for chassis production. “We will have an opportunity to continue to grow once we have established a foundation here.”

Responding to questions, Harrell said other investment by Toyota would also be eligible for incentives according to the county policy.

W.A. Cline, a retired football coach whose family owns the property, spoke up for Toyota, saying the project will bring good jobs and a good neighbor.

Commissioner Jim Sides, an opponent of incentives, said he is excited about having the company coming to the county. Sides ticked off the size of the company and its $13.4 billion in profits last year. He said it disturbs him that the county has to pay incentives to a company that is quickly becoming he largest producer of cars in the world.

Commissioners unanimously approved a public hearing for Jan. 16 on the incentive grant proposal.

The board will vote on the incentives following the hearing.

Toyota Racing Development is headquartered in Costa Mesa, Calif., with 250 employees at that site and in two shops in High Point.