Commissioners approve millions in economic incentives, rename building after Stanley

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners met Nov. 20, approving a pair of economic development incentive packages and a transportation grant application. They also decided to rename the big county building at 35 Woodfin Street in downtown Asheville after Vice Chair Bill Stanley, who’s retiring after serving for 24 years on the board.

Topping the agenda, commissioners unanimously voted to give Linamar $4.5 million in economic incentive grants. In exchange, the company agreed to make a local investment of $75 million and hire 250 new employees by Dec. 31, 2018.

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

The new grants will bring the county’s incentives to the Canadian auto-parts manufacturer up to a total of $14.5 million. The city of Asheville and the state of N.C. have also approved giving the company millions in grants and tax breaks. The company plans to eventually hire at least 650 local workers, paying them an average annual salary of roughly $39,000 per year — about $5,000 more than the county’s current annual average.

“That’s what we need for this county, and this community,” said commissioner K. Ray Bailey, who marked his last meeting serving on the board by imploring the new members about to be sworn in on Dec. 3 to continue business recruitment efforts.

“Let’s don’t stop doing that. It’s important to the people of this community to keeping bringing jobs here,” he said, motioning to Republican commissioners–elect Joe Belcher and David King, who were in the audience.

Commissioners also unanimously passed a proposal to give Baldor Electric Company $64,000 in economic incentive grants. In exchange, the Arkansas–based electric parts company agreed to invest $4.8 million in to its Weaverville facility and hire an additional 32 local employees.

During a public hearing on the matter, Candler resident Jerry Rice told the board that it still has a lot of economic development work to do, “but this is a good start.”

“We’re proud that manufacturing is coming back here,” added 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 the county’s plan to apply for $365,315 in state and federal grants for Mountain Mobility, the county’s public transportation system. In order to receive the transportation grant money, the county will need to commit to providing $64,468 in matching funds.

It was the first meeting of the board in its new chambers, located at 200 College Street, suite 326. And during the public comment period, Rice complained that although “it’s a very nice place,” the room “isn’t conducive to the public and our media people … because people have to stand so far back.”

Meanwhile, presiding over his last meeting serving on the board, Vice Chair Bill Stanley reflected for a few minutes on his 24 years in office.

“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 attendees in the room stood up and applauded.

The board then relocated the meeting to the county’s neighboring building at 35 Woodfin Street as part of a farewell reception for him and Bailey. Once there, the commissioners voted unanimously to rename the recently renovated building after Stanley. The big facility at 35 Woodfin St. houses the Register of Deeds office and the Election Services Department, among other things, and is now named the William H. Stanley Center.

Meanwhile, commissioner Carol Peterson attended the farewell ceremony, but says she’s awaiting the results of a District 2 recount before deciding if she’ll concede the race. That should be completed sometime next week. The initial certified results have her just 34 votes shy of winning another term.


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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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