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Stanly County wants meeting with governor over jobs offer

ALBEMARLE — A company looking to locate in Stanly County is pledging to forgo tax breaks and give $500,000 a year directly to county schools, but its decision requires that Alcoa maintain control of a series of power-generating dams. 
After a closed-door meeting today, the Stanly County Board of Commissioners is requesting a meeting with Gov. Beverly Perdue to talk about Alcoa and Clean Tech Silicon and Bar, the company that may locate in part of Alcoa’s old Badin aluminum smelting plant.
Today’s closed session was the third time since Sept. 12 the board has met behind closed doors to discuss the matter.
“We’re continuing to have conversations regarding … the economic development project of Clean Tech and proposals from Alcoa and resolving the outstanding 401 water quality permit issues,” Stanly County Manager Andy Lucas said. “Certainly, the governor has an interest in this as well.”
Clean Tech, a green energy company that makes silicon for the solar industry and recycles scrap metal into rebar, has said it would spend $300 million to locate an operation in Badin that would employ 250 people and create another 200 related jobs.
But Alcoa spokesman Mike Belwood said Clean Tech is also considering another site and that if Stanly officials are going to reach an agreement with Alcoa, “it needs to be done soon.”
Standing in the way is Stanly commissioners’ opposition to Alcoa’s bid to continue operating a hydroelectric project along a 38-mile stretch of the Yadkin River. That electricity used to power the Badin Works facility. But now, critics including the Stanly commissioners say, it is used to bolster Alcoa’s bottom line and provides no benefit to the region.
Alcoa has been operating the four dams under short-term licenses since its 50-year federal license expired in 2007.
Stanly County commissioners have been fighting Alcoa’s relicensing effort and filed a lawsuit against the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources, arguing it should not have issued Alcoa a key water quality certification. The state revoked that certification last year. Alcoa is appealing that decision.
Alcoa has made what Belwood previously called a “very substantial” offer to the county, pledging to provide a total of 750 jobs or economic support until that number is reached. In return, Alcoa wants Stanly officials to drop their opposition to the water quality permit and support the hydroelectric project relicensing.
Stanly County Commissioner Tony Dennis told the Post the deal offered by Alcoa amounts to “pennies for what it’s worth” and he accused the company of holding the jobs “hostage” to coerce the county into dropping its challenge.
Lucas said the county and company are also trying to identify a mutually acceptable date for their representatives to meet. Belwood said Alcoa has proposed three dates, none of which were acceptable to the county.
“But we are anxious to settle on a time and willing to be very flexible to make it happen,” Belwood said. He said it must be done quickly, however, “because we’re competing for Clean Tech jobs, and it’s important to move forward as soon as possible.”
Belwood said Alcoa is considering a joint venture with Clean Tech, which makes silicon for the solar industry and recycles scrap metal into rebar. He would not say whether that depends on the company locating in Badin.
In an open letter to Stanly County residents (download the letter here, Clean Tech board member David Stickler made no mention of a competing site. The letter lists Clean Tech’s address as 293 N.C. 740, the location of Alcoa’s Badin Works plant.
Stickler wrote that the Badin Works plant is “ideal” for Clean Tech and that the company would make concessions to locate there.
Stickler wrote that Clean Tech “is not only serious about making its investment and creating jobs but that Clean Tech is also taking steps to help ensure that local government services will be funded and maintained.”
He wrote that Clean Tech would forgo a tax exemption to which it would otherwise be entitled for recycling scrap metal. 
“This means that Clean Tech will be a full property tax payer and not a partial property tax payer,” Stickler wrote.
Because the company recognizes that “to have access to a robust employee base the community must have a healthy and vibrant education system,” Stickler wrote,?it has committed giving Stanly County schools $500,000 per year “above and beyond our local taxes.” Those payments would begin as soon as the company starts production, he wrote.
And Stickler points out that Clean Tech would buy about $60 million in raw materials annually from businesses throughout the state.
Stickler says the commitments have been made in writing to Stanly County commissioners.
“Clean Tech is prepared to make a long-term commitment to the local community and to North Carolina,” he wrote. “We just need to overcome a few remaining obstacles.”

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