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SOUTHPORT—Seventy-seven jobs will come with the opening of a bearing manufacturing plant in this southeast corner of Brunswick County.
Friday afternoon inside a 20,000-square-foot warehouse at 8250 River Road, just outside Southport’s corporate limits, a host of officials including N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory announced Lee Controls would be fully operational by December.
McCrory called it another achievement in restoring North Carolina’s power as a manufacturer and exporter.
“The reason I came down here is because I want to promote those jobs in which we build things, and make things, and innovate things, and grow things and produce things,” McCrory said.
“Because if we continue to be a country that’s turned away from manufacturing or making things and relying on the service industry, or government jobs alone, the economic model is not sustainable.”
Lee Controls, previously based in New Jersey, plans to invest $2.46 million at the Brunswick site over the next three years, McCrory’s office said. The company makes linear motion components including linear precision balls, ceramic and Teflon bearings, pillow blocks, and accessories like carriage locks and plates and ball screws.
Salaries will vary at the Southport plant but come out to an average annual wage of $39,649. Brunswick County’s average annual wage is $33,174.
“North Carolina has the highly skilled workforce that companies need to be competitive in a global economy,” N.C. Secretary of Commerce Sharon Decker was quoted as saying in a press release about Friday’s announcement. “Lee Control’s decision to locate in Brunswick County will provide much-needed employment opportunities for this region in North Carolina.”
North Carolina had to fight to win the company, officials indicated. South Carolina, for one, was stepping up with at least $1 million in incentives to try to draw Lee to Horry County, just across the state line, according to Brunswick County Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Jim Bradshaw.
“In the end, this was the best location in the nation for us,” Lee Controls President Glen Michalske said in Southport on Friday. He cited a skilled labor force in Brunswick County and proximity to major roadways to move products to markets.
Gordon Corlew, another Lee head and resident of St. James, credited a “combination of the welcome we have here in Brunswick County, and also the recent tax reductions by the state legislature really made this possible.”
Legislators from the outset of the recently wrapped session had discussed an overhaul to North Carolina’s tax code as strategy to attract business and better compete with neighboring states. Under the changes approved, income tax rates for North Carolinians fall to a uniform 5.8 percent rate in 2014. The corporate income tax falls to 6 percent in 2014 from 6.9 percent.
“This is an example where tax reform did make a difference,” McCrory said in Southport. “It’s verified by the person growing this company.”
Lee is also in line for a performance grant from the state, meaning the company will benefit if it meets predetermined benchmarks. The One North Carolina Fund is availing $40,000, the appropriation of which must be locally matched. “Companies [in line for these grants] receive no money up front and must meet job creation and investment performance standards to qualify for these local matches.”
Brunswick County also agreed to extend sewer to the site, and the City of Southport waived impact fees for the service, Bradshaw said.
Eli Smith of the Brunswick County Employment Security Commission office called the news of the coming jobs “fantastic. Seventy-seven residents and families who did not have a job before will have one. We’ve got some skill sets here that are going to be able to come in and fill these needs right now.”