Posted By David Boraks
Switzerland-based ABB Inc. plans to invest $90 million to build a manufacturing plant for electric power cables in Huntersville’s Commerce Station business park, which is jointly owned by the towns of Huntersville, Cornelius and Davidson. An announcement by state, local and company officials at the park Thursday said the new plant would create 100 jobs over the next two years.
The announcement caps a secretive year-long recruitment effort, dubbed Project Fly, by state and local officials. In the end, state and local grants helped lure ABB to pick Huntersville over another site in a neighboring state.
Jerry Broadway, director of the Lake Norman Regional Economic Development Corp.,  said it was a long-awaited win for local recruiters, and for the towns. “As far as the business park is concerned, this takes the remaining available site off the market. We had actually been holding it off the market for them for a couple of months,” he said.
In a press release, Mike Griffin, chairman of the Lake Norman Regional EDC, said, “This win points out the importance of regional development efforts. The Lake Norman Regional EDC and the Charlotte Chamber worked in partnership with the North Carolina Department of Commerce to land this project.”
Besides creating jobs, the announcement is something of a payoff for the towns, which have invested millions of dollars to assemble the property and improve roads and other infrastructure in hopes of luring a major facility like ABB’s.
State and local officials first learned of the opportunity in August 2009, when a site selection consultant approached them in search of a plant site.
The park is owned 60 percent by Huntersville, 25 percent by Cornelius and 15 percent by Davidson, and they share proportionally in expenses and any eventual revenues it generates, according to Mr. Broadway.
It wasn’t clear Thursday when or if the towns might generate revenue from the deal. Davidson Town Manager Leamon Brice said it’s possible the towns could share in revenue from the sale of the land, though he wasn’t sure of the purchase price. Mr. Broadway said the park’s management and the towns also could decide to reinvest proceeds in building additional infrastructure to open up more parcels in the park for future development.
The towns own about 126 acres at the park, off N.C. 115 in Huntersville, about 2 miles north of I-485. Along with additional privately owned parcels, the park eventually could total 350 acres, Mr. Broadway said.
The park’s only other tenant at the moment is Prairie Packaging, which Mr. Broadway said now has about 300 to 350 employees in the park.
Huntersville Mayor Jill Swain said in a press release that the town had revised its zoning code and taken other steps to help seal the deal. “The town board has worked diligently with the Lake Norman EDC to remove obstacles and address issues to make the Commerce Station site ready for ABB,” Mayor Swain said.
Officials said Thursday that the company’s decision came in part because of incentives, from the state’s Job Development Investment Grant program and One North Carolina Fund, as well as local Business Investment Partnership grants from Mecklenburg County and the Town of Huntersville.
Mayor Swain said the Huntersville Town Board would take action at a meeting soon on those incentives. “This is the largest economic development project we have ever been involved in and we didn’t want to take any chances on losing it,” she said.
ANOTHER ENERGY COMPANY FOR CHARLOTTE
ABB is the world’s largest provider of transmission and distribution equipment and technology for electric power grids. In The new Huntersville plant will make high-voltage land cables for power transmission. The company said that while wages will vary by job functions, the average wage for the new jobs in Huntersville would be $64,008. That’s above the county average full-time wage of $48,776, according to a press release Thursday.
ABB’s North American Power Systems and Power Products divisions are headquartered in Raleigh, and it has 771 employees in the state. In picking a Huntersville location, it adds yet another facility in N.C. and becomes the latest in a series of companies in the energy industry to focus on Charlotte.
“The Charlotte region is becoming a hub for companies in that industry sector. There’s already a critical mass of power related companies located here,” Mr. Broadway said.
In a press release, Enrique Santacana, region manager for ABB in North America, said, “We have a very good and long-standing relationship with the state of North Carolina. The combination of proximity to transportation, top-notch engineering talent and an attractive living environment made Huntersville an excellent choice for this new cable facility.”
ABB said it expects to begin hiring for the new jobs in the second half of 2011.
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