At its first meeting of the year, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved giving Reich, LLC, a German metal working company, $350,000 in county economic incentive grants to help fund expansions at its local facility in the Vista Industrial Park in Avery's Creek.
The county funds match state incentives totaling the same amount.
In exchange, the company has agreed to invest $22 million in new machinery and equipment at its local plant and hire at least 35 new employees, paying an average wage of at least $44,000 a year, according to county Planning Director John Creighton. The plant is currently the company's only North American facility and employs 27 people, compared to 700 people at its main German headquarters. The company specializes in producing vehicle parts such as fuel injection systems and ball bearings.
"I hope they continue to grow here in Buncombe County," Creighton told the commissioners as he briefed them on the deal. He estimated that for every dollar Buncombe County gives the company in economic incentives, it will eventually get back more than $10 in taxes.
Commissioner Mike Fryar, who was attending his first meeting as a commissioner after being belatedly sworn in last week due to an election dispute between other candidates in his district, joined others in praising the deal.
"We need work in this valley," he said. "This is a good way to do it."
Fryar, a Republican, was the sixth member to join the commission – giving it three GOP members and three Democrats for the vote on the economic incentive deal. Later that evening, Democrat Ellen Frost was sworn in, giving the board a slim Democratic majority.
In other business, the commissioners heard an update on the property reappraisal process from county Tax Director Gary Roberts. He said his department was in the final stages of determining citizens property values for tax purposes, and should be on schedule to send out notices to residents starting Jan. 22.
Roberts said he estimated that based on the numbers he's seen so far, overall property values in the county were going to be roughly the same or slightly less than the were at the time of the last revaluation in 2006. The final figures could play a major role in shaping the commissioners decision on setting the tax rate in the spring.
In the meantime, residents will have the right to appeal the tax department's revaluation of their property until mid-April, Roberts noted. And board Chair David Gantt encouraged residents to take advantage of the process if they have any questions over the value of their property.
"We want everyone to know what they're rights are," he said. "It's not personal if you want to appeal. We really do want to determine the right rate."