To land an auto plant Chatham County must compete in the real world of economic development

By Brian Bock

Pittsboro, NC – As a conservative republican I’m philosophically opposed to using tax payer dollars as an incentive to attract business and jobs.  However, I’ve discovered over the past several years, in the real world of economic development, it is a fact of life. As long as our competitors are offering incentives we have to play by the rules currently in place or not be in the game at all. We should use incentives carefully and only if the payback is substantial.

Chatham County MegasiteFor several years the County, Siler City, Duke Power, Norfolk Southern railway, our EDC, and many others have been working to attract a major manufacturer such as an auto plant to Chatham County. There are many steps that need to be taken to make this happen and we’ve completed most of them. There is still one missing piece that needs immediate action.

Every economic development professional at the local and state level I’ve spoken with over the past three years has said that the mega-site property needs to be under public control and available as an incentive option. The property is currently not within the county’s control. To remedy that, the commissioners are debating whether or not to purchase an option on the property currently owned by two individuals.

Simply put, if we do not purchase the option, our efforts to attract an automobile manufacturer will be stalled indefinitely. If we do purchase the option there are no guarantees but our opportunities will expand exponentially.

The thousands of jobs that will be created, hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue, and millions of dollars in weekly payroll that will result in the successful effort  far outweigh the risk. The price being paid for the option and per acre price if the county were to exercise it is expensive but in line with the price per acre for similar type sites. Worst case scenario is we purchase the option and don’t exercise it. Best case scenario is we attract an auto manufacturer and fundamentally transform the economy of Siler City, the County, and the region. In the worst case scenario the county would forfeit a large percentage of the money spent. That would be a tough pill to swallow I know. However, the opportunity lost by not acting puts us in a much worse situation.

Please contact your commissioners and let them know they have your support in this effort. They will be voting on this Monday, April 18 during their regular meeting beginning at 6:00pm.