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City, county unite to fight for business

Both Albemarle and county officials are offering up incentives to keep an unnamed industrial business in town.
At their respective meetings Monday, both the city and the county agreed to waive a portion of their property taxes if “Project Steel” — an industrial business currently operating in Albemarle — agrees to maintain and expand its operations there.
“This is a competitive process because we are competing against other states and other communities,” said Albemarle Mayor Ronnie Michael.
The nationwide company is going through consolidation, city staff explained. After a recent layoff, they need to condense operations and must decide where to focus those attentions. Albemarle is one of its options, but several states are being considered, as well.
If it does decide to focus on its facility in Albemarle, the facility would need to be expanded. In order to handle a new product line, the company would invest about $3.8 million into new equipment for the building and hire an estimated 44 new employees over the next three years.
However, if it decides to focus elsewhere, the Albemarle facility may close.
“We are trying to not only maintain the business we have, but also obtain that expansion,” Michael said. “If they choose to bring those other jobs from other states into here, that’s what we’d want them to do.”
So to remain competitive in that shifting situation, the city and the county have agreed to reduce Project Steel’s property taxes on any new investment for eight years. As long as the company meets certain growth standards, the two governing bodies will both reimburse 60 percent of any increase in property taxes for two years (2018-2020) and then 75 percent for the next six years (2020-2026).
That represents an estimated savings of about $146,200 for the company over the next eight years ($74,800 from the county and $71,400 from the city). The city and the county would receive an additional $27,600 and $26,400 in new taxes respectively even after the reduction.
“We took a look at the (economic) impact of what they’re doing, too,” Albemarle Economic Development Director Mark Donham said. “With the the 44 jobs they’re creating, there’s an estimated 26 would be created (elsewhere) as a result of that. The income from labor would also be about $1.8 million… the (gross domestic product) impact would be about $5.3 million.”
The county commissioners held a brief public hearing on a proposed economic incentive agreement at their meeting.
Michael Smith, director of Stanly County Economic Development Commission, requested the board’s support when coming forward to talk about Project Steel.
The North Carolina Economic Development Partnership may help with the project, Smith said.
“Our request for support from the county would be 60 percent grant in the first two years of this investment, and then we would like to go to 75 percent investment on the additional investment for six more years. This would be a total of eight years for this competitive grant,” Smith said.
No one else spoke during the public hearing.
According to a public hearing notice published prior to the meeting, “the incentive agreement will be funded with general fund revenues. Stanly County will recover the cost from new tax revenue, and the public will benefit from the additional property, business and sales tax revenue, stimulation of the overall economy and expanded employment opportunities in Stanly County.”
Now that incentives have been offered, the ball rests in the unnamed company’s court. Until they make a decision, the agreement will not move forward.
No public deadline has been set for that decision.

Imari Scarbrough contributed to this report.

Contact Shannon Beamon at 704-982-0816 or shannon.beamon@stanlynewspress.com.