The Charlotte Observer

February 16, 1996

Distributor to move to Fort Hill
Biggers Brothers takes S.C. incentive package

Tawn Nhan and Taylor Batten, Staff Writers

Copyright © 1996, The Charlotte Observer

Biggers Brothers Inc., a Charlotte food distributor for 69 years, will announce today that it will move its headquarters and more than 550 workers to Fort Mill, S.C.

Rejecting Mecklenburg County sites offered by the Charlotte Chamber and the City of Charlotte, Biggers will build offices, a warehouse and a truck maintenance center totaling 472,000 square feet on a plot near Brickyard Road and U.S. 21.

Biggers, which had outgrown its location in northwest Charlotte, was looking for land close enough for current employees to commute but far away from heavily traveled areas, said Rick Barnhardt, vice president of special projects.

``We wanted interstate access in a relatively uncongested area,'' Barnhardt said. ``This site best filled our needs.''

Biggers' move is the biggest corporate relocation to the area in decades. It will be the second largest employer in the Fort Mill area, officials said.

``It's the first step toward commercial and industrial development'' in the area, said Grady Ervin, a Fort Mill town council member. Ervin added that he hopes the move will attract other businesses to the area.

Charlotte Chamber and city officials tried for more than three months to convince Biggers to stay in town.

``We showed them other site options that were economically equal sites to those that they might be looking at outside of the county,'' said Terry Orell, the chamber's top recruiter.

Sites included one in the Westinghouse Boulevard area, Orell said.

Biggers was enticed to South Carolina by a number of factors, said Bayles Mack, chairman of the York County Economic Development Board and a state transportation commissioner.

Perhaps the most important: a five-mile road from U.S. 21 to the site; water and sewer lines; and a good deal on the 70-plus acres of land.

The $2.5 million, two-lane road helps connect the distribution site to the interstate, ``which was critical,'' Mack said. Three groups will pay for the road: $1.7 million from the S.C. Commerce Department; $500,000 from the state transportation department, to be paid back by the county through a gas tax controlled by a board of private citizens; and $300,000 from the Close family, which controls Springs Industries and is the largest private landowner in York County.

York County landowner Sara Belle Scott and Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C., gave land for the right of way, and the Close family sold the land for the plant at what observers speculate was an attractive price to Biggers.

``I don't know the prices, but it makes sense to me to think that they did'' sell cheaply, Mack said. ``They did a yeoman's duty in trying to get them here. They probably helped make the package work.''

Biggers will also receive a fee-in-lieu-of-tax arrangement that will lower taxes on equipment from the normal 10.5 percent. ``They've got conveyor belts and distribution-type equipment as well as vehicles. You figure lesser percentages on all those vehicles and all the equipment, then it drops that tax to make it much, much more reasonable.''

The company would also be eligible for job tax credits of $1,500 per job, Mack said, as well as income tax withholding tax credits and free training at York Technical College.

``If you could put a dollar figure on that, it would be a big incentive,'' Mack said.

``Generally, the executives who were going to make the decisions found they could locate into a new facility and have good access, and all the same things they could have in Charlotte'' at lower costs, Mack said.

``South Carolina has incentives by law, and we do qualify for some of those incentives,'' Barnhardt said. ``But that wasn't by any stretch of the imagination the primary driver of the decision.''

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Copyright © 1996, The Charlotte Observer.

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