The News & Observer
April 14, 1995
The telling record of the state's chase for Motorola
Carrick Mollenkamp, Staff Writer
Copyright © 1995, The News & Observer
A 7-inch-thick file details movement and the growing sense of
losing 'Project Geraldine.'
Used with permission.
Her job as a real estate consultant based in Virginia Beach, Va., is
to secretly scout sites for large company expansions that have the power
to change rural horse country into high-tech valleys. Usually, in the initial
stages of a search, she won't reveal the name of company despite questions
from economic developers.
In North Carolina, the deal she was handling was code-named "Project
The project was Motorola Inc.'s $3 billion semiconductor plant, now
headed for the outskirts of Richmond, Va. The company said Wednesday that
after a search of 600 sites, Motorola chose West Creek, a 3,500-acre business
park in rural Goochland County.
The $22 billion electronics and computer company also considered Treyburn,
a Durham corporate park, for the plant that one day will operate 24 hours
a day, seven days a week, employing 5,000 people to make the semiconductor
chips that end up making billions of dollars in revenue for Motorola.
In the end Treyburn lost. Dearborn said, however, that North Carolina
could be a player for the next major move by Motorola in the next five to
"I would guess that a major site could come to North Carolina,"
Dearborn said. "It could come a lot sooner."
But this week, Virginia was the winner.
For North Carolina, the two-year chase began with a memo to Gov. Jim
Hunt in October 1993 from his Department of Commerce staffers. "It's
real and it's big," the note said about a tip that Motorola was searching.
Department of Commerce officials knew it might be Motorola but they didn't
know much else.
The note was included in a 7-inch-thick file that recorded every move
North Carolina recruiters made to recruit Motorola.
Among the findings revealed in the file:
-There was never any correspondence to indicate that Treyburn and Richmond
were the only finalists. In fact, Department of Commerce officials never
seemed to know whether Treyburn was still being considered as late as January.
A memo from Watts Carr, then the director of business and industry development,
to another Commerce official indicated they were getting nervous. "Feel
we should hear something," Carr scrawled across the note.
On Jan. 31, Commerce received bad news: "Motorola has optioned
land in Richmond," read a phone message to Bill Teague, a top developer
in Commerce. A month later, after a personal trip by Hunt and Commerce Secretary
Dave Phillips to Motorola real estate officials in Phoenix, the news got
even worse: Treyburn was out.
-During the search, Tar Heel officials said the project was not incentive-driven,
based on conversations with Motorola officials. Virginia's $85.6 million
inducement package, however, caught North Carolina leaders by surprise and
left them wondering if incentives might have been a bigger factor.
Virginia's package, which must be approved by the legislature, includes
$60 million in performance-based manufacturing grants that could be issued
in $12 million cash grants spread over five years; a $4.6 million facility
tax credit and $5 million for worker training; and $16 million to develop
a electronics curriculum at Virginia Commonwealth University.
North Carolina's incentive package was nothing more than roads, power
rate discounts and amenities like membership in Treyburn Country Club. The
only unusual offer was a training facility at Durham Technical Community
In October, early in the chase, Don Johnson, Motorola's site director,
asked where the "meat" was in North Carolina's package, according
to a memo to Hunt. The "meat" never came.
-State recruiters also were concerned that press coverage in North Carolina
might hurt the project. Noted specifically was The News & Observer and
its reporting on the project, Treyburn, Durham schools and environmental
concerns in the watershed.
An update to Phillips, the Commerce secretary, from Carr noted that
Motorola officials said the Richmond Times-Dispatch was "less controversial,
less 'nosey' about the project and more of a booster."
But press coverage aside, North Carolina seemed to be losing the project.
In late February, officials with the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce,
which had taken a lead role in recruiting Motorola, scrambled to come up
with additional incentives. A chamber official told Commerce, "now
might be the appropriate point in time to put forward any additional 'proposals/incentives'
But not knowing what Virginia had offered made it difficult for North
Carolina officials to come up with anything to match.
By February, Durham chamber officials had a sense that the project was
in trouble, based on conversations with Motorola officials in the company's
existing Research Triangle Park operation.
On Feb. 24, a fax went out to a group of Durham leaders and state officials.
There was information, the fax said, "that suggests that we must take
immediate action or the project may be lost."
All rights reserved. No part of this article may be
reproduced, translated, or transmitted in any form or by any means without
permission in writing from The News & Observer.
Copyright © 1995, The News & Observer.
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