Lincoln County has had a lot of good news on the economic front recently, and yesterday's news is no different. From the Lincoln Herald on September 20th:
Lincoln County Commissioners approved a tax incentive grant Monday night (Sep. 19th) that will help in bringing a major company to the county. Unox, Inc. is the largest manufacturer of combi ovens in the world measured in units produced and sold. Founded in 1990, the company is headquartered in northeastern Italy just west of Venice. Its US headquarters is currently located in Newtown, Pennsylvania, but the company has purchased the spec building at the Airlie Business Park off Highway 16 near Optimist Club Road in eastern Lincoln County and plans to move its US headquarters there. The company says it will later add another building for manufacturing.
The agreement calls for Unox to invest four million dollars at the location. The county will refund $14,893 to the company each year after its property taxes have been paid for a period of five years.
Commissioners approved construction of the spec building in 2014 and it was completed last year. The 50,000 sq. ft. building was much discussed before Commissioners decided to proceed with the project. In 2012, Crystal Gettys of the Lincoln Economic Development Association (LEDA) told Commissioners that Lincoln County had already attracted one new industry--Lucky Country, a candy manufacturer--because a building was available. In 2013 at a public hearing, she told them that "if the county already had such a facility, it could have been filled three to four times over." Cliff Brumfield, LEDA's Executive Director who had just taken the job only a month earlier, told Commissioners at that February 2013 hearing that "no fewer than 40 requests" from industries had to be declined over a previous 18-month period because the county didn't have a spec facility.
Brumfield spoke again Monday night during the public comments portion of the Commissioners' meeting. "I'm not speaking as director of LEDA, but as a citizen and taxpayer," he said. "I want to thank the board for approving this spec building. It has now been purchased and a new major company is coming to Lincoln County because of it, but the building has also been important in our discussions with other companies looking to move or expand operations. It has been a good investment."
Original plans called for the building to be 100,000 sq. ft. but that was cut in half and the 50,000 sq. ft. building was built to be expandable to double its original size. At the hearing in 2013, two former commissioners spoke in favor of the building and one against. Bruce Carlton was adamant in his opposition. Larry Craig and Terry Brotherton both spoke in favor. Brotherton noted that when the county decided to build the Lincoln County Industrial Park north of Lincolnton, some criticized the move. "The benefit has been enormous," he said.
Unox will join Hydac as major tenants in Airlie.
“This is wonderful news and a testament to what executives see when they look at Lincoln County as a possible relocation destination," said NC House Representative Jason Saine. "We have a well-trained workforce, available properties and an economic development team at LEDA that does what it takes to accommodate companies like Unox who want to grow in a very friendly business and manufacturing environment.”
Unox's purchase of the Airlie I shell building will include an adjacent site to create a future manufacturing operation.
The Airlie Business Park was an initiative created by the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners with a subsequent public-private partnership collaboration between the county, Denver Construction company, and the landowner, Ingleside Real Estate Investment Partners.
Denver Construction and Campbell Design, have been awarded a contract to design and construct the interior headquarters upfit work. The initial move will include five corporate employees.
Michael Conway, President and CEO of Unox, Inc. said, “We are very excited to be relocating our US corporate headquarters to Lincoln County as we continue our tremendous growth. From the beginning of our search process, everyone involved has been extremely helpful and has worked very hard to ensure that we found a site that didn’t just meet our needs but exceeded our expectations.” Conway had especially high praise for Rep. Saine and his help in bringing the company and the local leaders together.
Dr. Jim Watson, LEDA Board Chairman added, “Unox is a welcome addition to Lincoln County and I applaud their decision to locate in our community. The County’s investment in the shell building was a key part of this announcement and I want to acknowledge the innovation this public-partnership represents.”
Unox, Inc. expects to be operational in Lincoln County during the second quarter of 2017.