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Rowan gives nod to Gildan on 4-1 vote

SALISBURY — County leaders voted to essentially donate land and offer an incentive plan to Gildan Yarns after the company said a new proposed plant could boost jobs and inject millions into the local economy.
Commissioners agreed to sell 26.6 acres of land just off Heilig Road to the company for $1, and pay roughly $4.2 million in incentive grants.
Rowan and Davie are competing against communities in South Carolina for the plants, part of Gildan’s planned $200 million expansion in the Southeast.
But the measure found fierce opposition in Chairman Jim Sides, who said the county needs to stop the practice of handing over incentives to businesses.
“Folks, at some point in time we have to stop this insanity of incentives,” Sides said.
The measure passed 4-1 with Sides as the dissenting vote, but not before Sides and Gildan President Chuck Ward traded blows over the company’s hiring process.
In November 2012, commissioners agreed to award incentives to Gildan (then called CanAm Yarns) to help convince the company to establish a ring-spinning operation in the former PGT building. That incentive agreement will pay the company 75 percent of the new property tax revenue generated by the project over six years.
Sides said Gildan is asking for more incentives on the 2013 project — with an average starting salary that was less than the proposed 2012 jobs — and despite being about 100 jobs less than the proposed Davie site.
Sides’ most critical remarks came when he attacked Gildan’s hiring process.
“As of August 2013, there’s 6,006 people unemployed in Rowan County. Of those, 1,365 are identified as having a manufacturing experience; 125 have professional, scientific or technical experience; 334 with transportation or warehousing experience,” Sides said. “It disturbs me a great deal to find out that Gildan is actively recruiting key executive and technical personnel from local employers. They’re not hiring people that don’t have jobs. They’re hiring people who do have jobs away from existing business here in Rowan County much to their detriment.”
Sides said the company isn’t simply putting the application online, but is “aggressively” seeking trained personnel from local businesses.
“I thought incentives were designed so we would put people who were not working back to work, but it’s my understanding that they’re actually taking people who have jobs and seeking them before they’re going out to hire those that are unemployed,” he said.
Ward, Gildan’s president, said Sides was incorrectly looking at the incentive amounts per each created job.
“What you’ve got to view is what we’re putting into the economy. That’s well in excess of that,” he said. “We’re putting in $3.5 million into your economy over the next 10 years above anything you give us. We’re not asking that you give us a free ride.”
Ward also said the company would give $1 million, at $100,000 a year, to the South Salisbury Fire District. That’s money that could go to serve the community, he said.
Ward also defended the company’s hiring practice, saying Gildan hires the people who apply.
“Respectfully, you don’t have the right facts,” Ward told Sides. “We’re posting articles in the paper. Anybody that gets the Post, they’ve probably seen it. We post every job. We have hired people that have come from other companies. But unfortunately they came to the door and put in applications. We’re an equal opportunity employer.”
Sides countered by saying he’s spoken with people who said Gildan has poached trained personnel from local businesses.
“Sir, I don’t present facts that I haven’t verified,” Sides said. “I’m not going to argue with you today, but I’ve spoken to the people who have told me that you actually had — you’re not there in employment, you’re somewhere else — you don’t pick up the phone and call these people but there’s somebody in that plant in Gildan in Rowan County that has been actively calling these companies and their employees and trying to take them away. I wouldn’t say it if it weren’t so.”
“I respectfully disagree,” Ward replied.
As part of Gildan’s 2012 project, the company so far has hired 30 people and spent more than $10 million toward the $43 million renovation of the PGT building. The company intends to hire 170 more employees in the next six months, RowanWorks Executive Director Robert Van Geons said.
Gildan is installing production machinery and expects to begin production in January.
The 184 additional jobs at the second plant would pay an average wage of $32,279 per year. The average pay would be $15.52 per hour, lower than the average wage in Rowan County, which is $19.02.
However, Van Geons said, that wage is higher than the average wage for similar positions in the region, $12.53 an hour. Gildan also offers a benefits package that includes health insurance, life insurance and a 401K.
The project would increase the county’s tax base by about $130 million.
Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.

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