The Charlotte Observer

June 30, 1995

S.C. incentives help lure plant
Electronics firm will bring up to 1,000 jobs to Rock Hill

Greg Barrett, Staff Writer
Staff writers Gail Smith, Suzanne Jeffries, Cliff Mehrtens, Celeste Smith, and Stella M. Eisele contributed to this article

Copyright © 1995, The Charlotte Observer

A tug-of-war between the two Carolinas went south Thursday when a $4 billion-per-year electronics firm announced plans to build a plant here.

Backed by changes in S.C. law to accommodate it, AMP Inc. becomes the largest manufacturing company to locate in York County in more than a decade.

``It's a fact of life, you give a little something to get good, quality industry,'' said York County Council Chairman Carl Gullick. ``We changed the laws to get AMP . . . but we did not sell our souls.''

York Technical College in Rock Hill also will provide tailored training for the company's new employees.

AMP expects to open shop in early 1997 on a 79-acre, cedar-shaded lot in Rock Hill off I-77 on South Porter Road. The company will bring about 500 jobs to Rock Hill in the first two years of operation, and as many as 1,000 jobs when its three-phase project stretches into the 21st century, said company spokeswoman Thea Hocker.

AMP will transfer 300 of the initial jobs from its Gaston County operations.

The first phase - construction should begin in early 1996 - will total more than $10 million in construction and land costs.

York County will use about $250,000 in grant money to extend water lines and get sewer to the property, said Mark Farris, director of York County economic development.

AMP's announcement ends a recruiting battle that pitted two Charlotte-area communities on different sides of the state line. Cabarrus County, N.C., was the other finalist for the plant, and officials there said Thursday they could not match York County's offer.

Both states made last-ditch recruitment moves: S.C. Gov. David Beasley and N.C. Gov. Jim Hunt made separate trips to AMP's home base in Harrisburg, Pa., earlier this month.

``It was nip-and-tuck all the way,'' Sen. Wes Hayes, R-York, said Thursday.

``This is probably the biggest new investment in the Upstate in a long, long time. It means a lot to our entire area of the state.''

In the Gaston County city of Lowell, home to an AMP plant that will lose 300 workers, the mood was different. ``Any jobs lost in Lowell is going to hurt us,'' said Gary Hicks, the interim city manager for the city of roughly 2,100 people.

``Any time an employer loses positions it just affects us.''

Hocker said 450 jobs will remain in Lowell in the company's Growth Products Unit, and the lost jobs may be replaced ``if business continues in a very positive direction.''

In the end, South Carolina won out, in part, by amending state law to:

* Speed up the depreciation rate of custom molds and dies on electronic connectors. This law was passed specifically to aid the recruiting of AMP.

* Allow the county to adopt a fee in lieu of property taxes. The county can now negotiate a tax on industrial property of between 6 percent and 10-1/2 percent on the total assessed value.

* Establish ``enterprise zones'' giving tax breaks and other financial incentives to companies that locate there.

``The legislation passed recently has created an extremely competitive atmosphere for us. . . . We can now bring a lot to the table,'' said Farris, who made a couple of trips to Harrisburg and even played pick-up basketball with AMP executives.

Cabarrus County officials, who were locked in the battle for AMP since August, said York County simply outbid them.

``At the end,'' said Cabarrus County Economic Development Director Maurice Ewing, ``we ran out of incentive dollars.''

North Carolina was not willing to change laws to woo AMP and could not offer a ``fee in lieu of property tax,'' said Ewing.

``It was decided that it was not fair to existing industries here to change the rules just to get someone new,'' he said. `` . . . There's no climate here for giving away large amounts of money.''

Ewing said the enterprise zone was pivotal. ``It was a very, very aggressive package. How could we compete with that?''

Enterprise zones, drawn by census tracts, are determined by economic need. The Rock Hill property qualified after the January closing of Southern Manufacturing Co., which cost the South Porter Road area 80 jobs, said Farris.

With the enterprise zone comes job-development fees, which allows AMP to keep between 2 percent and 5 percent of state withholding taxes to use for property development. The plant will also be in a multicounty industrial park, which gives AMP a $1,500 tax credit for each job created to be used toward its S.C. corporate tax bill.

The company plans to begin building a 100,000-square foot plant in early 1996, with another 100,000 square feet added sometime between 1998 and 2000, Hocker said. A temporary work site employing 100 to 150 people will be open in early 1996 at an undetermined location between Rock Hill and Gastonia.


AMP Inc.

Headquarters: Harrisburg, Pa.

Product: World's largest maker of electrical and electronic connectors.

1994 sales: $4.03 billion.

1994 earnings: $369.4 million

Employment: 31,000 people in 38 countries.

N.C. connection: AMP's first N.C. factory opened in Greensboro in 1960. Now has 25 N.C. manufacturing, warehousing and office sites with 5,000 workers. About 300 N.C. jobs will be relocated from Lowell to the new Rock Hill factory.

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Copyright © 1995, The Charlotte Observer.

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