Mount Airy has lost much of its manufacturing base over the past decade, but enticing a textile company dubbed “Project Viking” to come here could help reverse that trend, speakers at a Thursday night public hearing said.
“We need to make things,” said Mark Rogers, a local Realtor who was one of four speakers expressing support for the city board of commissioners offering incentives totaling $342,188 to the unidentified industry.
“I hear it over and over,” Rogers added of local citizens’ desire for manufacturing to again become a major player here.
“Countries who no longer manufacture lose power,” Mayor Deborah Cochran agreed later during Thursday’s meeting.
This coincided with the commissioners approving the incentive package in order to expedite the project. That could lead to a favorable announcement by the company as early as next week.
Though the 45 jobs offered by the company known only by the code name Project Viking wouldn’t return Mount Airy to its heyday of making toasters and a wide variety of textile products, it would help, Rogers and others said.
“Industry is what we have to have in our community to make it viable,” said another hearing speaker, Dwight McAlexander, a retiree who lives on Hylton Street.
Supplying the incentives not only would benefit those who work at the plant, but provide an overall boost to a community that is not viable at present, McAlexander said. This is showing up in slow Christmas shopping traffic at Mayberry Mall stores and less patronage of local restaurants, according to the longtime city resident.
“This Will Pan Out”
The company involved is considering opening its plant in a building formerly housing the Harvest Time Bread Co., which is in Piedmont Triad West Corporate Park off U.S. 601.
It would represent an expansion of an existing, Northern-based entity and the manufacture locally of a product now made in another country, according to Thursday night’s discussion. At the same time, it would build a domestic market for that item. The company presently supplies products to the aerospace, automotive and hospitality industries.
Steve Riddle, an official with North Carolina Foam Industries here who also spoke at Thursday’s hearing, said he is familiar with the individual who runs the industry and that the operation would be a good addition to Mount Airy.
While new industrial projects don’t always live up to their billing, “this will pan out,” Riddle said of the operator’s potential for long-term success in the community.
“He’s one of those I guess you could call a damn Yankee, ‘cause he’s going to come down here and stay,” Riddle quipped.
Although the product and company involved would be new for Mount Airy, its potential arrival represents a return of a type of manufacturing (textiles) that has left in droves in recent years.
“Do The Math”
The local government incentive package includes about $107,105 to be paid over an eight-year period, plus the conveyance by both the city and Surry County of some 14.8 acres of real property in the corporate park valued at $226,383.
Including a building re-use and restoration grant of $8,700 from the North Carolina Rural Center, the package totals $342,188. The incentives are based on the property tax revenues Mount Airy anticipates from the company.
It, in turn, would invest more than $7 million in the venture over five years in addition to creating 45 jobs from 2013-2017.
However, Rogers, the Realtor who spoke, said the big picture could go beyond that.
“It’s quite a potential for a huge financial impact,” he said of the project, “even greater than seven million dollars.”
If only 20 of the 45 employees buy houses, that would generate $3.4 million for the real estate industry alone, Rogers said, not counting other money they would spend.
“There’s a number of ways to do the math,” he said.
“It would be a good thing for the community,” said another speaker, Todd Tucker, president of the Surry County Economic Development Partnership.
Tucker mentioned that while 2012 got off to a rocky start economically in the county, including the closing of Harvest Time Bread Co., the year could close on a high note through the offering of the incentives.
Along with supplying jobs to local citizens, the company would be making “something that’s very important,” the economic-development official added.
No one spoke against the incentives.
While such enticements aren’t always welcomed by citizens, “I don’t know how you can land anybody without incentives,” Rogers said of industrial prospects.
Thursday night’s unanimous approval of the incentives package by the board represented a departure from the city commissioners’ usual practice of not acting on issues the same night public hearings are held on them.
It now clears the way for the company to make what local officials hope will be a favorable decision.
“What we need is some good news — we need jobs,” said Rogers.
Commissioner Jon Cawley said he was impressed by the “energy” surrounding Thursday night’s hearing.
“It was so good to have people who are in favor of things to speak to us publicly,” Cawley said.
Among other business Thursday, the city commissioners appointed members to various boards.
• Included was the newly formed Downtown Traffic and Safety Committee, created on Nov. 1 to study parking and other issues in the central business district. It originated from concerns about large trucks being stopped in travel lanes of North Main Street for deliveries.
Named to the group were Commissioner Scott Graham, Jenny Caudle, Gene Rees, Greg Perkins, Dennis Lowe and City Police Chief Dale Watson, who’ll serve as an advisory member.
• Greg Perkins was reappointed to the Mount Airy-Surry County Airport Authority. His new four-year term will expire in December 2016.
• Marie Wood was appointed to the Mount Airy Parks and Recreation Commission to replace Gina Gough, who has resigned from the group. Wood will fill an unexpired term that ends in March 2014.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.