Buncombe County Commissioners preview: Buy it and they will come?  ***UPDATED Tues. 3:10 PM***

UPDATE: 3:10 PM Tuesday, June 28

Just moments ago News 13 Anchor Russ Bowen sent out the following Tweet:

Sources say Linamar automotive parts company to take over Volvo plant #avlnews more at 5 pm

The sources and announcement have not yet been confirmed.

According to its website, the Canada-based Linamar Corporation “is a world-class designer and diversified manufacturer of precision metallic components and systems for the automotive industry, energy and mobile industrial markets.  Building on the foundation of over 40 years of successful growth, we are a leading edge supplier of engine, transmission,  driveline, modules & systems and mobile aerial work platforms.”

The company runs 39 manufacturing facilities around the world, including three in the U.S. In 2010, the corporation did $2.2 billion Canadian (CAD) in sales.

UPDATE: 5:14 PM Monday, June 27

In regards to the speculation surrounding the county’s plans to purchase the former Volvo plant, Buncombe County Board Chair David Gantt confirms to Xpress that “Thursday night, all the beans will be spilled.” He says that the announcement will be “a major hit; it’ll be one of the biggest ones we’ve had in years.”

However, plans are not yet finalized, he says. “We’ve been talking to some prospects and we feel we can have more leverage if we have ownership of the building,” he maintains. “We’re working it hard. There’s a lot of details, a lot of confidentiality.”

“But I believe we’ll be rewarded for our efforts in the community,” he continues. “I think the community will be very happy with the results of this transaction, and the series of events that it will trigger.”

Read on for the original post and more info:

At its June 28 meeting, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will consider buying the former Volvo plant at 2169 Hendersonville Road for $7 million in hopes of luring another large employer to the property.

The money for the purchase of the 65 acres of land and 405,108 square-foot industrial facility would come from the county’s General Fund of taxpayer dollars. Commissioners have argued that the expense would be worth the benefit of preserving the site for manufacturing use and the jobs that would create rather than allowing it to be developed for condos or retail space.

Some have also hinted that the unusual purchase is part of a deal with a private employer that’s already in the works.

“We’re talking to a couple of different folks about that particular [Volvo] site. And we continue to work with them on all the legal stuff and all that sort of business. … All of us – the city, county and state – are working to find someone to occupy that space,” explains commissioner K. Ray Bailey, who also chairs the Economic Development Coalition.

Details of any such deals haven’t been forthcoming, however, with Bailey and others insisting that they’re bound by a “confidentiality agreement.”

But other events also suggest that a possible large, multifaceted deal might be in the works.

During a June 7 closed session, the commissioners discussed offering economic incentives to a company that could bring up to 400 jobs and make a $125 million investment in the area.

The day before, Gov. Bev Perdue flew to Asheville to meet with the unknown CEO of a large company about a possible move to the mountains. And she plans to be back in town June 28 for the North Carolina Association of School Administrators’ Summer Leadership Conference; other possible public appearances while she’s in town are pending. Meanwhile, City Council member Gordon Smith has also hinted at an upcoming “big jobs announcement” via Twitter. And today, June 27, Kit Cramer, President of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce sent an email with the following notification:

The Asheville Chamber’s Annual Meeting & Dinner is always a great place to network, but this year, it will be the only place to hear BIG NEWS that will have a lasting impact on our community. 
If I told you any more I’d have to kill you. :) Seriously, you won’t want to miss it.

Bailey admits that all those events “appear to be related,” although he also reports that “nothing is final on having someone occupy that [facility] right now.”

Meanwhile, the county’s purchase of the property drew criticism during public comment at the commissioners June 21 meeting.  Fairview resident (and former Republican candidate for commissioner) Mike Fryar  asserted that if a deal to bring 400 jobs to the site didn’t pan out the county would be in “trouble” for spending so much money during tough economic times.

And West Asheville resident Hope Garrett urged commissioners to “explain what economic incentives you would offer to a company” to use the site before moving to buy the property.

“I think the public should know more before you gamble with $7 million of their money,” she asserted.

The board will meet at 5:00 p.m., Tuesday, June 28, in the commissioner’s chambers, located at 30 Valley St. Due to a summer holiday and the National Association of Counties annual conference, the next meeting of the board won’t be until July 26.

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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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