02/01/06 — Incentives expected to earn OK from county

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Incentives expected to earn OK from county

By Turner Walston
Published in News on February 1, 2006 1:54 PM

Andrew Corp., the communications equipment manufacturer moving to Wayne County this year, could receive nearly $2.1 million in cash, grants and land from the county.

The company could also receive up to $1.4 million through a Job Development Incentive Grant from the state of North Carolina. The county's incentive package was discussed at a public hearing in early January, and could be approved at the commissioners' Feb. 21 meeting.

Those incentives are a necessity in today's business world, said Joanna Thompson, president of the Wayne Economic Development Commission.

"The majority of those state grants require some type of local match," she said. "The burden of local government is to match in some part that grant. If we don't match, they don't get the grant, and they're not coming."

Andrew is moving into a new 125,000-square-foot facility at ParkEast, the Wayne County Industrial Park. The company bought Channel Master of Smithfield out of bankruptcy in 2003, and will operate the Smithfield plant until relocating to Goldsboro for a new project.

To receive the full amount of the incentive grant, Andrew must retain and relocate 232 jobs by the end of 2006, and meet incremental goals to create 204 more jobs by the end of 2011.

"One of the reasons that Wayne County was so attractive was the condensed workforce in Smithfield that they could re-train to help ramp up this (Goldsboro) plant," Ms. Thompson said. "There is a good number of those that are people that are already Wayne County residents."

Another attraction was the workforce training available at Wayne Community College, she said.

Ms. Thompson said industries like Andrew will help increase the county's tax base, making more money available for schools and other community programs.

She said Andrew's wages will be at or above the average in Wayne County. "Anytime you put 400 people to work at a wage that is more than what they were at before, those people are going to be buying cars, buying appliances, and spending money in the community," Ms. Thompson said.

She also said Andrew represents a new kind of industry for Wayne County. "We want higher-tech industry, and this is one of those type industries."

Ms. Thompson said she understands that residents would prefer the county not spend money to attract industry. Still, it's a competition, she said.

"We sell the benefits of Wayne County," she said. Economic developers around the state tout their sites, workforce and quality of life, she added.

"All those are great, but at the end of the day, location of industry is a business decision made by business people," she said. She said companies want to re-locate where they can spend the least amount of money.

"You've got to spend money to make money," she said. "The county has to spend money. It's an investment for our future."

With Andrew investing $11.5 million over six years, Ms. Thompson said county commissioners expect to recoup the county's assistance in a five- to seven-year period.

"They'll more than do that," she said.

Andrew must open its doors no later than Dec. 31.

"We would expect to begin construction in the first couple months of this year, with relocation happening late in '06," Andrew Corp. spokesman Rick Aspan said. "We're still moving along on the project, but of course there's a lot of up-front details that have to be taken care of first."

The company is close to selecting a general contractor, Ms. Thompson said, and will break ground soon after doing so.