06/28/06 — Andrew Corp. pulls out of Wayne

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Andrew Corp. pulls out of Wayne

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on June 28, 2006 2:00 PM

Andrew Corp. will keep its operations in Smithfield instead of building a new facility in Wayne County, company officials announced Tuesday.

Economic Development Corp. president Joanna Thompson said the decision was made for business reasons.

Andrew Corp., which manufactures satellite antenna systems and electronics, announced in December that the company would be moving to the Wayne County industrial park, ParkEast, on U.S. 70 bypass after concerns arose about remaining in their Smithfield facility.

In the meantime, the building the company had leased in Smithfield was purchased from the Channel Master bankruptcy estate by Industrial Realty Group, a California-based company. The new owners presented an offer to Andrew Corp. executives that would allow them to renew their lease in Smithfield until June 2007. The company stated in a press release issued Tuesday that it plans to use a 235,000-square-foot section of its 750,000-square-foot facility.

"In the end, it was a business decision on their part. It's not that Wayne County did anything wrong," Ms. Thompson said.

Instead, she added that the cards just fell out of the county's favor.

"When Andrew announced last year that it was going to build a new facility at ParkEast, the option to stay at their existing facility was not available to them. That's what got them looking in the first place. While I personally don't like the way this project ultimately unfolded, I do understand the reasoning," Ms. Thompson said.

Although the company had not received any incentive money from Wayne, County Manager Lee Smith said the county did spend "a couple of thousand dollars" in planning and surveying the ParkEast lot the company had planned to move into. Smith added that the county would have conducted that work for any industry interested in locating to the area.

Andrew Corp.'s decision also will mean the company will not receive state grant money. Andrew was awarded a Job Development Incentive Grant by the Governor's Office for its intention to bring an additional 200 jobs to the county.

In its 10-year agreement with the state, Andrew Corp. would have been required to meet a set of required performance standards. For meeting those requirements, the state would have provided a grant equivalent to 65 percent of the state personal income withholding taxes derived from the creation of new jobs. If Andrew Corp. created all of those jobs within the 10-year time period, it could have received a maximum benefit of $1.4 million.

Don Hobart, general counsel for the state's Department of Commerce, said Tuesday that Andrew Corp. became ineligible for the grant when it made the decision to return to Smithfield.

"When the company was at risk of leaving the state, but went to Wayne County, they were able to get the grant. But the grant was specific to Wayne County. When they decided to go back to Johnston County, they took their opportunity, but were ineligible for the grant," Hobart said.

Smith said he would like to have an exit interview with Andrew Corp, officials to find out if there were any other factors in the company's decision not to relocate.

"It would help us to learn what to do better in the future," Smith said.

Rick Aspan, Andrew Corp.'s public relations director, could not be reached for comment.

Last fall, Andrew Corp. executives began investigating moving the company's operations as the December expiration date of the company's 750,000-square-foot Smithfield facility approached. The company had the option of moving its existing 232 jobs to South Carolina, Mexico or Illinois, where Andrew Corp. is based.

As an incentive to stay in North Carolina, Wayne County officials offered 20 acres of land at ParkEast, the county's industrial park, to build a 140,000-square-foot facility. The company would have also received about $1.2 million in performance-based incentives from the county.

None of the details for that package had been determined before Andrew Corp. decided to return to Smithfield, Ms. Thompson said.

The company had planned an estimated $11.5 million investment in Wayne over the next six years.

The offer from Industrial Realty Group allows Andrew Corp. to avoid the cost of equipment relocation while retaining the existing utilities infrastructure at the Smithfield facility, according to a company statement.