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‘Big news across the whole state’: Commissioners approve incentives for 1,250-job project

SALISBURY — The Rowan County commissioners on Monday approved a tax incentives deal that, if successful, would result in an economic development announcement that would “be big news across the whole state,” Chairman Greg Edds said.

The multimillion-dollar incentives deal would provide an unnamed online retailer with $2.3 million in tax rebates over 10 years. The company would also receive a $400,000 grant for equipment. That’s an increase over a previous deal offered to the same company that included $1.3 million in tax rebates over five years and a $100,000 equipment grant. The county would retain $1.26 million in tax revenue after the rebates.

“Incentives like this are a little bit out of the ordinary for us, but this is a very extraordinary project,” said Commissioner Mike Caskey.

The incentives deal is in hopes of scoring Project Kodiak — a 700,000-square-foot, e-commerce fulfillment center on Long Ferry Road that would employ 1,250 people by 2025, up from 600 in a previous proposal. The average wage among the many jobs would be $28,388 a year. The jobs would include benefits, said Scott Shelton, vice president of the Rowan Economic Development Commission.

Thousands more indirect jobs could be created in Rowan County, too, Shelton told commissioners. And the total projected investment would be $55 million.

Shelton said the company, if it chooses to move to Rowan, could be among the area’s top five employers quickly. It would also be the biggest economic development announcement ever made by the Rowan EDC.

Shelton said the commission could know as soon as April 18 — the date of a state board meeting to decide on the Community Development Block Grant funds — whether it has scored the project.

“We’re looking forward to good news in April, and this will certainly be big news across the whole state and the region,” Edds said.

The facility could be open in March 2020, Shelton said.

Commissioners on Monday approved the deal unanimously after asking a number of questions about “clawback” provisions if the company chooses to close before the end of the 10-year period or does not meet its goals.

If the company does not meet job goals set forth in the incentives agreement — 750 jobs by the second year, 1,000 jobs by the fourth and 1,250 jobs from the sixth through the 10th — the incentives agreement could be reduced downward proportionally.

If the company were to eliminate a majority of its workforce within 12 months, it would be asked to repay the previous three years of tax rebates. And the repayment would vary based on how far into the 10-year period the company chose to close. In the first five years, the company would be rebated 80% of taxes paid. In the second five years, the rebate would be 50%.

Shelton said the $400,000 equipment grant would technically be a loan that’s forgiven if job goals are met.

At present, Rowan’s top competition for the project is a site in South Carolina, and economic development officials are asking state government to also approve $1.5 million in Community Development Block Grant funds to extend a sewer line under Interstate 85 and to the site, which is adjacent to the interstate.

In other business Monday:

• Commissioners approved additional details about a Dollar General store at N.C. 152 and Organ Church Road that received zoning approval March 18.

Details included an architectural floor plan, exterior elevation details, a color image for illustration purposes only and images of a “monument style” sign.

Commissioners voted 4-1 to approve the plans after some discussion about the specific materials that will be used in construction as well as the appearance of future stores.

Commissioner Craig Pierce was the lone commissioner to vote “no.” He also voted “no” on a rezoning last month to allow for the store.

• Commissioners approved a proclamation for Child Abuse Prevent Month, which is April.

Commissioners also heard a brief presentation from Beth McKiethen, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Rowan.

Adverse childhood experiences, which could include abuse or poverty, and childhood trauma were among the things McKiethen talked about.

One traumatic event can affect a child’s chances for success in the future, she said.

Commissioner Judy Klusman encouraged commissioners to spend one hour per week helping a child read or doing a similar activity.

As part of the consent agenda, the commissioners scheduled an April 15 public hearing for tax incentives for an economic development project called “Project Special.”

The project would be for an existing employer and proposes 35 new jobs.

• As part of the consent agenda, the commissioners extended a lease for Bath and Body Works at West End Plaza.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4248.

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