The News & Observer
March 2, 1995
Motorola bypasses Durham
Carrick Mollenkamp and Tim Vercellotti, Staff Writers
Treyburn rejected, but N.C. could still get big plant
Copyright © 1995, The News & Observer
Durham County's dream to win a $1 billion Motorola Inc. semiconductor
plant is a bust.Used with permission.
Motorola officials said late Wednesday that Treyburn, a northern Durham
development, is no longer being considered for a huge plant that will employ
5,000 upon its completion. The decision stunned local and state officials
and heightened the mystery behind the high-profile search of the electronics
Motorola's real estate planners in Phoenix, where the Semiconductor
Products Sector is headquartered, did not offer details for the decision
except to say that Treyburn did not meet Motorola's criteria.
"We find disqualifying factors, and only a very small percentage
of the sites that we began to look at get anywhere near the final part of
the process," said Jeff Gorin, a Motorola spokesman.
Motorola said, however, that other North Carolina sites are being considered
-- a new twist to the search because it had been speculated that Treyburn
and the Richmond, Va., area were the two finalists for the project.
Motorola did not say what other Tar Heel sites are under consideration.
The Wake County portion of Research Triangle Park once was considered a
possibility, but officials there said they have not been notified if RTP
is back in the chase.
"We will be showing them other sites," said Angie Harris,
a state Department of Commerce spokesman. "There is not a site in the
state that is off limits."
Motorola's announcement caught Durham's government and business leaders
"It just breaks my heart," Durham Mayor Sylvia Kerckhoff said.
"Our community worked very hard to show them all of our good points.
That's really going to be a blow to all of us. It would've meant so much
to the city and the county."
Tom White, vice president of economic development for the Greater Durham
Chamber of Commerce, which was the lead agency in courting Motorola, also
"It's all part of the game," said White, the chamber's industrial
recruiter. "The thing is, you're disappointed, but there's no guarantee
White said he was heartened at the news that Motorola still is considering
sites in North Carolina, but he noted that he wasn't aware of any other
locations in the Triangle.
"I would love it if our state would get it, even if we didn't get
it locally," he said.
Motorola officials notified state Commerce Secretary Dave Phillips of
the decision Tuesday afternoon. On Wednesday, Durham Chamber of Commerce
officials received word via a faxed press release.
White said he called Don Johnson, vice president and director of new
construction for Motorola's Semiconductor Products Sector, but Johnson didn't
elaborate on why the company had dropped Treyburn from consideration.
"He expressed appreciation for the services that were rendered,
and said the release basically stated their position," White said.
White declined to speculate on why Motorola bypassed Treyburn.
Kerckhoff suggested that newspaper reports questioning the plant's impact
on nearby Falls Lake and the possible connection between the project and
controversial Eno Drive might have played a role.
Opponents of Eno Drive contend the Motorola project gave the state another
reason to build the road through northern Durham, over objections of homeowners
who would be displaced by Eno Drive.
"I certainly think there's been enough negative flap in the newspapers
to make anyone wary," Kerckhoff said.
City and county officials had worked with the Greater Durham Chamber
of Commerce to provide a modest package of incentives to lure Motorola to
The plant, which would have been located outside the city limits, needed
2 million gallons of water per day. The city had the capacity to serve the
plant, but Motorola faced water and sewer bills totaling $18,000 per day
because the city charges higher rates to out-of-city customers.
City officials had offered to give Motorola a break on the charges by
supplying the plant with recycled water, which would have been suitable
for manufacturing use without having the purity of drinking water.
The county had offered its standard inducement -- allowing Motorola
to use property taxes to retire the cost of extending water and sewer lines
to the plant.
Durham Technical Community College, meanwhile, was prepared to train
Motorola employees at a branch campus that opened in Treyburn in mid-1993.
Durham Tech is one of the few community colleges in the state to offer training
in semiconductor chip manufacturing.
"We had a tremendous amount of diverse support from the public
and private sector," White said.
In recent weeks, Gov. Jim Hunt has raised the tempo of his own role
in efforts to recruit Motorola. He played host to Durham officials at a
breakfast intended to spark local efforts, and Durham officials responded
with a letter-writing campaign and advertisements. Two weeks ago, Hunt and
Phillips paid a low-profile visit to Motorola officials in Phoenix to discuss
Economic development officials in Richmond, where a rural site called
West Creek is under consideration, refused to comment on the decision.
"It's hard to read," said Gregory Wingfield, president of
the Greater Richmond Partnership. "We're trying to do everything we
can to keep things buttoned up."
In Durham, however, the disappointment was clear.
"I'm not a little disappointed, I'm a lot disappointed," county
Commissioner Tommy Hunt said. "That's bad news. That would have been
a real help to our community from a tax base standpoint and by bringing
a lot of jobs. But we'll go on to something else."
(Staff Writer Ned Glascock contributed to this report.)
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.
| Click here to go to The News & Observer homepage. |
| Case Home
| Out-Box |