Imagine a major corporation planning an expansion or a new plant and not taking a penny in cash incentives from a local government.
And imagine the investment that company plans to make would total more than $10 million, improve a piece of existing property to the point where it’s one of the most unique manufacturing plants in the world and meanwhile create 30 jobs in an economy drowning in unemployment.
And it didn’t cost taxpayers anything at all — not a dime.
Actually, it really shouldn’t take much creative thinking for people in Alamance County to conjure up what probably qualifies as a stunning sight in this day and age. In fact such an occurrence — perhaps more rare than a dinosaur egg or honesty among national politicians — came about just last week.
It happened when Glen Raven Custom Fabrics and its CEO Allen E. Gant Jr. announced a new yarn plant for Alamance County with just those specifications — $10 million investment, 30 jobs, no cash incentives from a local government.
That’s especially true when Glen Raven’s good economic news is juxtaposed with another outstanding possible event for the local economy. Last week via the Alamance County Board of Commissioners, it was learned that Sheetz — yes the convenience store / food sales emporiums that are springing up like wild mushrooms along interstate corridors — is interested in putting a supply warehouse off the interstate in Burlington. The potential investment by Sheetz? An estimated $32 million. The number of jobs? More than 250.
Great stuff, right?
Now for the bad news: The incentives request to Alamance County? An absurd $960,000 in cash doled out of six years. That’s really just the start. Sheetz has also requested cash incentives from the city of Burlington. The dollar amount is not yet known. It’ll be factored on a formula the city uses as part of its incentives policy. It’s based on the potential investment and number of jobs.
So we’re talking about a cash figure that will be well in excess of $1 million when all the calculating is done. There’ll be some infrastructure stuff like water and sewer lines, too.
That’s a big number when government money is too tight to keep important agencies well funded or even give government employees raises.
Now economic development people and many in government contend that cash incentives are part of the game when it comes to industrial or business recruitment and that if our community doesn’t pay up, some other area will. They also maintain that incentives are a wash when balanced against the benefits of a company landing in a community.
In fact, incentives are such an entrenched fact of life, we won’t don’t even bother to make the editorial demand that governments refrain from doing so anymore. We will not go on and on about the failed Dell deal in Forsyth County a few years back. Newspapers have howled like prairie coyotes into the darkness against incentives for years now with no effect at all.
And we also acknowledge that with county unemployment still zipping over and under the 10 percent mark each passing month, Alamance County needs every single job it can get. We want the community to get those 253 jobs — even if they are short in terms of salary of what used to be the norm back when our community was a national hub of textile manufacturing.
Times change. Our folks need to work and make a check.
But what we will do today is acknowledge that a corporation can make an investment in a community and not expect anything in return besides a great labor force, outstanding location and excellent quality of life.