EconWar



The News & Observer


Raleigh, N.C.


March 2, 1995

Motorola bypasses Durham
Treyburn rejected, but N.C. could still get big plant

Carrick Mollenkamp and Tim Vercellotti, Staff Writers

Copyright © 1995, The News & Observer



DURHAM - Durham County's dream to win a $1 billion Motorola Inc. semiconductor plant is a bust.

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 giant.

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 by surprise.

"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 expressed disappointment.

"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 you'll succeed."

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 Treyburn.

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 the project.

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.)




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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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