ABB breaks ground on plant at Commerce Station
by Josh Lanier
HUNTERSVILLE – Swedish electric cable manufacturer ABB broke ground this week on what will become on of the area’s largest single investments ever.
The facility will create a $90-million boon to the region, bring more than 100 jobs and help make Mecklenburg County a leader in next-generation energy production, officials at the Monday, April 4, groundbreaking ceremony said.
Dozens of local, regional and state officials packed into an auditorium at Central Piedmont Community College’s north campus to officially welcome the company, which is completing site work for a massive facility at Commerce Station Industrial Park along N.C. 115.
“These are the sort of 21st century jobs that are not only putting North Carolinians back to work but are helping our state steadily climb out of the recession,” said Gov. Bev Perdue, who attended the event. “The workers in these new jobs will be building the smart grid, and we welcome companies like ABB that are willing to invest in our state and position North Carolina as a leader in the power industry.”
The plant, which should be operational by the third quarter of next year, will bring about 130 jobs ranging from production line employees to executives with an median salary of $64,000, which exceeds the county average, officials said.
The company will pay about $22 million in construction costs and will add about $5 million annually to the local economy.
Along with the jobs inside the plant, ABB officials also expect an equal number of new jobs to be created in the service sector to accommodate the influx of people.
“We’re talking jobs from grocery stores to health care,” company spokesman Bill Rose said. “This will have far-reaching positive effects.”
The Huntersville facility will specialize in making cables that carry electricity to be placed underground. The new technology will be vital in new so-called smart grids, which will help make current electrical systems more efficient.
“There are only a handful of operations in the world that can make these types of lines,” said Enrique Santacana, president of ABB’s North American operations. “… We’re shoring up our energy future for years to come.”
The move to recruit energy-sector heavy hitters came from a meeting three years ago, as Charlotte’s banking industry was shrinking and hemorrhaging jobs during the early stages of the recession.
“We now have 27,000 energy-related jobs,” Mecklenburg County Commission Chairman Jennifer Roberts said. “We’re showing the rest of the country how to move forward in the energy future.”
Huntersville Mayor Jill Swain thanked the Lake Norman Regional Economic Development Corp. and other local and state agencies that worked to bring ABB to Huntersville.
Part of that recruiting process was an incentives package worth millions.
The N.C. Department of Commerce offered a Job Development Investment Grant that could be worth in upwards of $2 million over nine years.
The county and Huntersville offered to return 75 percent of the company’s taxes over 10 years if the company invests at least $84 million and employs at least 100. That means Huntersville would give back $195,000 a year to the company of the $261,000 it paid in taxes for 10 years, Huntersville Town Manager Greg Ferguson said last year.
Perdue said the incentives are vital in wooing companies to the region.
“Unless we’re willing to hang a closed-for-business sign at the border,” she said, “we must use the incentives at our disposal.”
Central Piedmont Community College and will play a major role in training students to work in the energy field and at the new ABB facility.
Perdue said company’s like ABB prove the need to keep education funding high.
“It’s time for us to stand up …” she said. “Any backing down on education would be devastating.”