ALBEMARLE — For over 12 years, Charlotte Pipe and Foundry’s plan of relocating to Oakboro — known under the codename “Project Blue Sky” — has been in the works. But at the Stanly County Board of Commissioners special meeting Monday night, May 5, this plan was finally made official to the public.
“This is a great county and it’s where I live; I’m proud to call it home and I hope that Charlotte Pipe can call it home very soon,” Roddey Dowd, CEO of Charlotte Pipe, said in the public hearing portion of the meeting. “We’ve had wonderful cooperation with the county and having dealt with counties all across the country, you are at the top of the peak.”
With a 6-0 vote, the board approved a plan to grant tax break incentives to Charlotte Pipe, who has immediate goals to invest at least $325 million in new taxable investment and at least 400 new jobs within the county. Commissioner Mike Barbee, who was absent in the voting and discussion of the resolution, recused himself due to “legal counsel” he received.
“In 1915, over a hundred years ago, Alcoa started making aluminum at the Badin Works. That was a century event,” state Sen. Tom McInnis (R-Richmond), whose district borders Stanly County, told the board. “This event is a century event and a hundred-year opportunity that we have here tonight. This is a game-changer and something that will go down in the annals of history and time as something that changed the face and dynamics of this county for the better.”
County manager Andy Lucas explained that in the format of a 20-year tax incentive agreement, Charlotte Pipe will pay the entirety of the taxes it owes annually and the county will issue a grant in the name of 80% paid, as long as the company meets certain benchmarks.
“This is one of these once-in-a-lifetime type projects,” Lucas stated. “I can’t even put into words how significant it is for our community.”
According to Lucas, the anticipated taxes to be paid by the company are around $28 million and that includes depreciation over time. In addition, the incentive amount on that 80% grant is around $22 million, and that will likely change based on the investment.
The company has to meet job and investment benchmarks each year to receive the full 80%, and if not, the grant amount is prorated.
“It’s a great day for Stanly County to have Project Blue Sky come to fruition,” state Rep. Wayne Sasser (R-Stanly) said in a prepared statement read aloud by Lucas. “I would like to thank everyone who worked to make this project happen. This will, without a doubt, make the largest economic impact to Stanly County that has occurred in the last 50 years.”
In addition to the business itself, commissioners mentioned the housing, retail, restaurant and professional services that will likely plant their roots in the county to accommodate Charlotte Pipe’s new facility, even further boosting the county’s economy.
“This was the worst-kept secret in American history,” state Sen. Carl Ford (R-Rowan), whose district includes Stanly County, joked in reference to the Project Blue Sky moniker that has been used for years to signify the Charlotte Pipe relocation. “I’ve heard people talking about it way before I started representing Stanly County, back when I was in the House representing Rowan and Cabarrus County. And right now, they’re a little jealous, to be honest.”
The plan for the new facility includes a one-time rail scale payment of $215,000 that will be cost shared with For Stanly, a non-profit fundraising group for economic development.
In addition, there is a 10-year natural gas line extension reimbursement payment structure where Charlotte Pipe will pay $358,452 to Piedmont Natural Gas for the installation of this line. The county will then reimburse the company for that annual payment for a period of 10 years.
“On behalf of Charlotte Pipe and Foundry, I want to thank the board for your thoughtfulness and thoroughness over the past month months in evaluating this facility,” the company’s attorney, Charles Brown, said. “We recognize the countless hours that county employees have invested in this project to try to make it a reality.”