LINCOLNTON – The rapid development of eastern Lincoln County has been a hot topic in recent years, mostly due to the thousands of new homes being built in the area and the added stress that places on infrastructure. It’s not all bad; however, because industries are investing in Lincoln County at near-record rates, according to the Lincoln Economic Development Association (LEDA).
The current fiscal year, which started July 1 and isn’t even halfway over yet, is already the fourth biggest in terms of announced job creation in LEDA’s history, according to executive director Cliff Brumfield. In terms of the standard calendar, there have only been two other years in which more jobs were created than in 2018.
“The biggest challenge was finding space to put new industries,” Brumfield said. “The other challenge is finding a workforce, and it’s amazing because here we are at an unemployment rate of 2.6 percent, and we just announced four new projects with additional jobs that haven’t even been created yet, so imagine what that’s going to do to that 2.6 percent number.”
Investments announced this year by existing Lincoln County industries expanding their current facilities and new industries venturing into the area for the first time will create nearly 200 new jobs in the area when those projects are completed. The jobs created combined with the taxes paid by the county’s largest industries has resulted in a boon to the local economy in recent years.
“If you look at industries like Timken, Blum and some of the other top few taxpayers in the county, it’s unbelievable because some of them easily pay half a million dollars or more in taxes,” Brumfield said. “Then you think of the income of an industry that’s paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes each year and the impact of their purchasing and their employees’ salaries that are spent in the county, and compare that to how many new houses it takes to generate that kind of impact on the economy. That’s not even to mention the toll that new houses take on law enforcement and the schools, so you can see why communities push economic development so hard.”
Attracting those industries to Lincoln County isn’t easy; however, when countless other communities in North Carolina and across the country are competing for their services as well. The county can’t simply rest on its laurels of rapid residential development and a good school system to attract employers, and therefore must offer incentives to keep existing industries and attract new ones.
Lincoln County does this through its industrial development incentive grant program, which was adopted for the purposes of recruiting industry to expand the tax base, provide quality jobs for local residents and promote economic development. These financial incentive grants are based on the tax value of the industry’s capital investment in the county and are paid in the form of a refund on the taxes paid by the industry rather than the money being taken out of the county’s coffers.
“The thinking behind the incentive grant program is that the county is giving up a little bit in order to get a lot more over time in terms of tax income,” Brumfield said. “Fortunately, we have a very fair incentive program, but unfortunately everyone else has one, too, so we’re always working to stay on top of the game. In essence, the program is revenue neutral in that the industry pays its taxes and then gets a portion of them back for a period of five-to-seven years after their investment is made in Lincoln County.”
In 2018, the county awarded its industrial incentive grant to three industries preparing to relocate to Lincoln County and five existing industries seeking to expand their current operations in the county. In total, those eight industries have pledged to invest nearly $100 million in capital in Lincoln County, while creating nearly 200 new jobs between them.
The county’s three new industries are Husky Rack and Wire and Huber Technology, both of which have pledged an investment of at least $10 million, as well as Texture Plus, a manufacturer of faux wall panels that has committed to a capital investment of $1.5 million. Husky Rack and Wire supplies industrial wire racks, while Huber Technology provides equipment for municipal and industrial water and wastewater treatment.
The existing industries that have committed to expanding their current operations within Lincoln County include Blum, Aptar, Cataler, Calico Coatings and FMS Enterprises. Aptar, a manufacturer of dispensing systems and packaging solutions, pledged the most significant capital investment at $36 million for a project that will create 40 new jobs.