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Commissioners approve incentive agreement with California company

A fuel system company based in California could receive $500,000 in tax incentives after Rowan County commissioners on Monday approved a five-year agreement.

The agreement, with Agility Fuel Systems, is for $500,000 over five years. Incentives are paid after taxes. During each year of the agreement, Agility Fuel Systems would generate $133,250 in tax revenue for Rowan County. The county’s incentive agreement would be for $99,938 per year, with the county retaining $33,312, according to an economic impact study.

But two important decisions remain before construction can begin and Agility Fuel Systems’ move to Rowan is final.

First and foremost, Rowan Works Economic Development Director Robert Van Geons said Agility Fuel Systems is considering other sites for its facility, which would become the company’s regional headquarters. In his presentation, Van Geons said the company is considering sites in North Carolina, South Carolina and other states.

“We are in a very heated competition against other sites, other buildings and other locations across the Southeast,” Van Geons said. “It’s important to know that, while you are considering what you are going to do with this project, without the state’s support, we will not be able to successfully put together a package for the company.”

Van Geons said he wasn’t sure of the exact number, but said the company would need some sort of incentive package from the state of North Carolina in order to locate in Rowan County. He said a number of factors could play into Rowan being selected if the state offers an incentive package. One factor that’s important, Van Geons said, is what other states decide to offer compared to North Carolina.

The site Agility Fuel Systems is considering sits just south of I-85 in the Summit Corporate Center and consists of 32.55 acres just south of a retail complex site. Agility’s facility would be more than 200,000 square feet.

If the company chooses Rowan County, Van Geons presentation showed that an overwhelming majority of the workers — 220 of nearly 280 — would be classified as “assemblers.” The company would pay an average salary of $34,849 with benefits. Van Geons said the total 277 job figure isn’t likely to be met until 2021.

The company currently employs 450 workers across five facilities in the U.S. and Canada, according to Agility Fuel Systems’ website. Its website markets its products as a clean method of transportation.

“We are the leading provider of highly-engineered and cost-effective natural gas fuel systems for heavy duty commercial vehicles,” a page on its website states.

With little hesitation, commissioners voted unanimously to approve the offer.

Before voting in favor of the incentive agreement, Commission Vice-Chairman Jim Greene talked about the potential for Agility to pair with other industries in the area, such as Freightliner.

“One of our largest employers in the county probably would be a good customer of somebody that is building engines,” Greene said about Freightliner. “Basically, you could tie both of these companies together in years to come.”

Greene asked Van Geons if the 277 jobs could lead to any other sort of boost in service jobs. Van Geons responded affirmatively saying one half of a service job is approximately equal to 12 jobs at Agility’s proposed facility.

When commenting on the agreement, Commission Chairman Greg Edds called pairing complementary business clustering. Edds said it’s an idea that’s been talked about previously as a way to boost Rowan’s economy.

“We think we would be a good fit for you and we just thank you for your consideration of our community,” he said to a representative of Agility who attended the meeting.

Before the vote, the commissioners held a public hearing where two people spoke, one of whom was Jim Sides, the previous county commission chairman.

In a lengthy monologue, Sides described a number of reasons why he believes incentive agreements aren’t necessary. Sides spent nearly 10 minutes quoting articles from national publications.

“One of the arguments I’ve had over the years has been that incentives are not really as good as they’re presented,” Sides said. “The main effect of incentives is simply to deplete a community’s tax base.”

Roy Bentley, who helped run La Resistance  during the 2014 campaign season, was the only other person to speak during public comment on the incentive agreement. Bentley spoke in favor of the proposal.

“I don’t think these incentives that you guys are considering are to be as vilified as perhaps the previous speaker felt,” Bentley said. “That’s mainly because they are paid after the taxes are received … The fact of the matter is this: incentives are standard procedure in business today. Everyone has them.”

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246

 

 

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