Granted: Commissioners approve additional $4.5 million for Linamar

Living legend: The board honored Commissioner Bill Stanley’s 24 years of public service by naming the county’s building at 35 Woodfin St. in his honor. photo by Max Cooper

The current Buncombe County Board of Commissioners met for the final time Nov. 20, approving a pair of economic-development incentive packages and a transportation grant application. They also honored retiring board members Bill Stanley and K. Ray Bailey.

Topping the agenda, the commissioners unanimously approved $4.5 million in economic-incentive grants for Linamar Corp. In exchange, the Canadian auto-parts manufacturer has agreed to invest $75 million to expand its Skyland production facility and hire 250 additional employees by Dec. 31, 2018. Company official Heather Smercina said the money will help pay for the new building and enable Linamar to increase production rapidly to meet growing demand.

That's in addition to the $10 million the county approved for Linamar in June of 2011. As part of that deal, the company agreed to invest $125 million in its Skyland facility (the former Volvo plant) and hire 400 workers by 2020.

All told, the county's incentives to Linamar now total $14.5 million, in addition to the millions of dollars’ worth of grants and tax breaks the city of Asheville and North Carolina have approved. Linamar, meanwhile, has now committed to investing $200 million in the local facility and hiring at least 650 local workers at an average annual salary of roughly $39,000 per year (about $5,000 more than the county’s current annual average wage).

"That's what we need for this county and this community," declared Bailey, who did not seek re-election. “Let's don't stop doing that. It's important to the people of this community to keep bringing jobs here," he said, motioning toward newly elected Republican commissioners-elect Joe Belcher, David King and Mike Fryar, who were sitting in the audience (they’ll be sworn in Dec. 3).

Bailey will continue business recruitment efforts as well, since the board unanimously appointed him to the Economic Development Coalition.

Fighting for jobs

The commissioners also unanimously approved giving Baldor Electric Co. $64,000 in economic-incentive grants. In exchange, the Arkansas-based firm, which makes electric motors and other products, agreed to invest $4.8 million in its Weaverville facility and hire 32 additional employees.

During a public hearing on the matter, Candler resident Jerry Rice (the only member of the public to weigh in) said, "This is a good start,” cautioning that there’s still a lot more economic development work to be done.

"We're proud that manufacturing is coming back here," responded board Chair David Gantt. "There was a feeling at one point that manufacturing was going to be done in other countries. … We want to fight for those jobs."

In addition, the board unanimously approved applying for $365,315 in state and federal grants for Mountain Mobility, the county's public transportation system. To qualify, the county agreed to provide $64,468 in matching funds.

It was the board’s first meeting in its new home (200 College St., Suite 326). The newly remodeled room can seat about 125 people — up from 80 in the former space on Valley Street.

During the public-comment period, however, Rice —once again the only person to address the matter — said that while "It's a very nice place," the bigger room "isn't conducive to the public and our media people … because people have to sit so far back.”

Stanley steps down

Stanley, meanwhile, reflected on his 24 years on the board.

"This is the greatest county in the country, no question," he gushed. "We have the greatest staff that's ever walked this earth. … I thank you kindly," he added, as many in attendance stood and applauded.

The board then relocated the meeting to the neighboring county building at 35 Woodfin St., where a farewell reception was held for Stanley and Bailey. There, the commissioners unanimously approved renaming the recently renovated building, which houses the Register of Deeds office and the tax and election services departments, the William H. Stanley Center.

Commissioner Carol Peterson also attended the ceremony but said she's awaiting the results of a District 2 recount before deciding whether to concede the race. The initial certified results show her just 34 votes shy of winning a third term on the board.

Jake Frankel can be reached at 251-1333, ext. 115, or at jfrankel@mountainx.com.

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About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning journalist who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

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