Newell Rubbermaid looks to base part of jet fleet in Rowan County

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 3, 2009

By Jessie Burchette

Salisbury Post

A global household products company is looking at the Rowan County Airport as a possible location for part of its fleet of corporate jets valued at $40 million.

Newell Rubbermaid, based in Atlanta, recently announced plans to expand its 50,000-square-foot facility in Huntersville, adding 320 professional and management jobs that will pay an average annual salary of $88,000.

A state grant keyed to job creation could net the company $6.6 million over nine years.

Three officials from Newell Rubbermaid visited the Rowan County Airport on Nov. 29 to check out the facility.

The county is in the process of preparing an area near the Shoe Show and Food Lion hangars for additional corporate hangars.

Randy Harrell, executive director of the Salisbury-Rowan Economic Development Commission, met with the Newell Rubbermaid representatives at the request of the N.C. Department of Commerce.

Newell Rubbermaid which has 26,500 employees, is a global marketer of consumer and commercial products. The company’s brands include Sharpie, Paper Mate, Waterman, Parker, Rolodex and Calphalon.

Harrell said the company representatives had several questions, including if the county plans to extend the runway. That is in the works.

Although one or more private developers may have also been represented at the airport meeting, company officials also asked if the county would be willing to build a hangar and lease it to the company.

Harrell said Rowan is apparently competing with the Statesville and Concord airports, both of which build and lease hangars.

Another question involved economic incentives. Harrell said the county’s incentive policy does not allow for incentives for rolling stock — airplanes.

County commissioners do have the option of providing some form of incentives, but it’s not in the written incentive policy.

On Thursday, the N.C. Department of Commerce notified Harrell that Newell Rubbermaid would like a proposal from the county on providing a hangar.

Harrell said he plans to meet with County Manager Bill Cowan to formulate the response, which is due by early January.

From a competitive standpoint Rowan may face an uphill battle. The county’s tax rate combined with the city of Salisbury puts the Rowan airport in a higher tax bracket than some other airports.

The airport meeting on Nov. 29 touched off a flurry of e-mails between commissioners and county officials, as various private businessmen took credit for arranging the Newell Rubbermaid visit.

Harrell said he was contacted by the N.C. Department of Commerce and was not aware that any private developers or builders were going to be at the meeting.

The e-mails that followed the meeting suggested that the county was trying to take away business from private developers. And the e-mails questioned why county commissioners didn’t have any advance notice.

Cowan, the county manager, said he was given a few hours advance notice of the meeting and couldn’t attend. He had a prior appointment.

In an e-mail to Cowan, following the meeting, Harrell urged the county to “do what is necessary to work with them (Newell Rubbermaid) in every way we can. This … project would add substantially to the Rowan County tax base.”

Arnold Chamberlain, chairman of the Board of Commissioners, brought a halt to the e-mails, writing that proper procedures weren’t followed. Chamberlain stressed that the county owns the airport and proper protocol will be followed in the future, stressing that private developers will not represent the county.

Chamberlain added that the project is a potentially great deal for the county.

Contact Jesse Burchette at 704-797-7254 or jburchette@