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Stanly commissioners pave way for Charlotte Pipe

The “worst kept secret” in Stanly, as one state senator put it, was finally revealed Monday night at a specially called meeting of the Stanly County Board of Commissioners regarding the economic development project Blue Sky.

Stanly’s commissioners passed a resolution extending an offer to Charlotte Pipe and Foundry for tax breaks and other incentives 6-0, with Commissioner Mike Barbee recusing himself from the vote on the advice of counsel.

Attorney Charles Brown revealed during a public hearing something which had been known by many when a number of Charlotte Pipe and Foundry workers attended a previous meeting for the rezoning of lands tracts in the Oakboro area.

County Manager Andy Lucas introduced the public hearing Monday by saying he and others had been working on the Charlotte Pipe project since 2008. The project was on hiatus because of the economic downturn and recession but over the last two years has been a key project.

Calling it “a transformational project,” Lucas said the amount of sales tax generated from purchases, along with jobs, payroll, restaurants and other businesses coming around the factory, will be an economic multiplier for Oakboro and the county.

The package of incentives, good for 20 years, includes a tax break for Charlotte Pipe who will be required to pay 100 percent of taxes, but the county will issue a grant of 80 percent back. The company will have to meet certain benchmarks for the tax break, including a minimum of 400 new jobs and an overall investment of $325 million in the county. Lucas said he thought $325 million was a conservative estimate of what the factory will bring, adding the annual taxes to the county should be around $28 million.

Also included in the package is a one-time rail scale payment of $215,000 to the state Department of Transportation for rail and road work. Lucas said the nonprofit organization For Stanly, Inc., which funds economic development projects in the county, will help offset some of the costs of that payment.

A 10-year natural gas pipeline extension will also happen for the new plant. Charlotte Pipe will pay Piedmont Natural Gas $358,452 for the new extension and the county will reimburse Charlotte Pipe over 10 years. Lucas said others will be able to hook into the new line, and the extension is 100 percent taxable.

During the public hearing, Lucas read a prepared statement from N.C. Rep. Wayne Sasser regarding the new project. The statement said in part the new factory “would make the largest economic impact in Stanly County that has occurred in the last 50 years.”

“I like wins such as this and it will be good for Stanly,” Sasser said in the statement.

Candace Lowder, director of the Stanly County EDC, presented a resolution passed by the EDC to the commissioners during the public hearing showing its support for the project.

During the hearing, Brown thanked those involved for their “thoughtfulness and thoroughness” in the matter.

Roddy Dowd Jr., president of Charlotte Pipe, thanked commissioners for their help. Dowd said that of the counties the company has dealt with in the past for new factories, Stanly was “the top of the heap.”

State Sen. Carl Ford (R-Dist. 33) said to the commissioners the identity of the company in project Blue Sky was “the worst-kept secret in American history.” He added bordering counties like Cabarrus and Rowan are jealous of Stanly for getting this project, and the new factory will be great for the county.

Tom McInnis, a Republican senator from District 25, also was in attendance at the meeting in person. He talked about meeting Commissioner Zack Almond, who helped McInnis with his campaign. McInnis said the two reached out to people in the company they knew about the project.

“One thing we did not want to see happen was (for Charlotte Pipe) to go to another state, another town or another place other than Stanly County,” McInnis said.

McInnis likened the new factory to ALCOA coming to Badin 115 years ago, saying getting Charlotte Pipe and Foundry “was a 100-year opportunity.” He also said a lot of people outside Stanly are envious of the county for getting this project. McInnis said the company has never had a layoff and pays its workers a living wage.

Contact Charles Curcio at charles.curcio@stanlynewspress.com, call (704) 983-1361 or on Twitter (@charles_curcio).

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio was the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press from 1999-2001 and has currently served in the same capacity since 2008. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also been honored twice by the North Carolina Press Association.

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