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Benchmarks met, county sells land to Vitro

Sneaking in before the final buzzer at the Monday meeting of the Surry County Board of Commissioners was a land transfer deal that was easily overlooked amid the highly publicized and at times contentious changes to the development codes and the Scenic Byway Overlay.

County Manager Chris Knopf told the board the late item before them fell under the banner of good news involving property the county owns at 300 PGW Drive in Elkin. “This is part of the April 11, 2011, incentive agreement for job creation and economic development between Surry County and Pittsburgh Glass Works (PGW).”

Terms found in the incentives package that brought the multi-million dollar project to Elkin have been satisfied and Knopf brought documents prepared by county attorney Ed Woltz to begin the process of and terminating the lease agreement and selling the land back to PGW.

Knopf reminded the board, of whom only Chairman Eddie Harris remains from the time this deal was made, that the county bought the land to lease back to the company. Officials had assembled a multi-million-dollar incentive package that included the county purchasing the building for $6.5 million, then leasing the building to the firm at a cost of $1 a year for a dozen years.

“With that being the case, Surry County owns the property. It’s not on the tax rolls,” Knopf said. Selling the property back to PGW means that the land goes back to taxable status and the county will be free of all future action regarding PGW and the incentives.

“This will be the last act of this board with regard to the incentive agreement with PGW and it’s been a long ride,” Woltz observed.

Knopf told the board Monday that PGW, “Has exceeded expectations over the last decade in job creation and investment and is now one of the top five taxpayers in Surry County.”

With PGW having satisfied the conditions of the incentive agreement he said, “It is time for the board to transfer ownership of the property to PGW.”

Knopf wanted to be clear, the property will at that time goes back onto the county tax books, “A value of over $9.8 million will return to Surry County’s tax rolls that will equal a tax payment next year to the county of around $54,000.”

“The Elkin School District will receive around $12,500 and the town of Elkin almost $55,000 as well. It’s a significant bump for all involved,” the county manager explained.

In speaking about the PGW incentives deal Tuesday evening, Harris said this is how incentives in the perfect world are supposed to work and it has produced a great return for the county.

He has alluded to the complicated package that went into luring this project to Surry County at previous board meetings when Projects Cobra and Denver came up for discussion. He noted that job creation as part of incentives was simply the landscape of business at that time. “There was a lot of economic uncertainty at the time and job creation was in high demand.”

Newer incentives packages do not have number of jobs created as part of their benchmarks, in part because Harris had said that policing such policies can be nearly impossible.

“The incentives have been exceeded as far as employment and investment,” Woltz advised Monday, meaning that the county and the company could end the agreement even though it was not yet set to expire.

“The lease is set to run for two more years, for no apparent reason. I think the memorandum of lease and the lease itself were at odds.”

He went on to explain, “For the last five years, I have been trying to get that squared away and finally, they (PGW) just decided to take ownership of the property, which is the best resolution that could happen to get the property back on the tax rolls.”

To get the deal done to build the 476,000 square foot facility in Elkin, PGW also got support in the form of state economic development grants such as the Job Development Investment Grant by the North Carolina Economic Investment Committee.

PGW also was awarded a $500,000 grant from the state’s One North Carolina Fund. The One Fund provides cash grants to attract business projects deemed to be vital to a healthy and growing state economy.

“There is no doubt that our investments continue to pay off,” then Gov. Bev Purdue said of the decision to open the facility in Elkin. “Pittsburgh Glass Works considered 88 sites throughout the United States before deciding to locate in North Carolina.”

PGW was purchased in 2016 for $310 million by Vitro who has a global workforce topping out over 14,000. With their headquarters in Pittsburgh, PGW operates seven manufacturing plants, two satellite facilities and has an international presence with a manufacturing plant in Poland.

When buying PGW, Vitro CEO Adrian Sada Cueva said, “The addition of PGW will enable the company to grow. It will further strengthen our company and create a business staffed by talented employees and strategically positioned for growth.”

“This was a very complex process that involved a lot of moving parts. In involved to Golden Leaf Foundation, the Town of Elkin, Surry County, Surry Economic Development Partnership, and was extremely complex,” Harris said Monday before cheerfully introducing the resolution to terminate the lease and initiate the sale – which passed the board unanimously.

“Nevertheless, we got it done,” Harris said, “and I remember specifically at the time they were required to create 265 jobs and I think they’re over 550 now.”

“They’re over double the number of jobs they said they would create. They’ve been a great corporate citizen for Surry County, and this has been a huge success story.”



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