The entrance to The Grounds, an industrial site in Concord that formerly housed a cigarette plant but is slated to soon host a trio of corporate markers producing canned beverages. Arturo Pineda / Carolina Public Press

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A new 800,000-square-foot aluminum can plant that Ball Corp. recently announced in Cabarrus County is expected to bring more than 200 jobs, strengthening the county’s standing as one of the most rapidly growing economies in the state and allowing Concord to step further out of neighboring Charlotte’s shadow. 

Ball Corp., a global aluminum beverage packaging company based in Broomfield, Colo., announced plans July 27 to expand its operations to North Carolina stating that the new facility will be up and running by the start of 2023. The facility, at 2321 Concord Parkway South, is expected to represent a $383 million investment from the company. 

The manufacturing plant will be part of a vertically integrated beverage manufacturing hub consisting of Ball Corp., Red Bull and Rauch North America on The Grounds, the former Philip Morris cigarette manufacturing site. Red Bull and Rauch filed their plans jointly, whereas Ball filed separately, but will manufacture aluminum cans for Red Bull.

The overall hub is predicted to bring in more than $1 billion in investment and more than 600 jobs by 2027, according to a news release from the governor’s office.  If successful, it would be the largest economic development in Cabarrus County history, according to the Cabarrus Economic Development Corp. The overall average wage for the three companies is projected at $57,393.

In early July, Red Bull and Rauch announced plans to build a 2 million-square-foot beverage manufacturing site, adding 413 jobs and investing $740 million by 2027, according to a news release. 

Red Bull’s 323 jobs will have an average salary of $50,367, and Rauch’s 323 jobs will have a comparable average salary of $50,387. 

Ball Corp.’s average salary will be $70,555 for their 220 jobs. Ball Corp. did not disclose the median salary, so it’s not clear whether high-paying executive jobs are skewing that average. Regardless, these average salaries would be well above Cabarrus County’s average of $41,255. 

“We are not content to be a bedroom community to Charlotte,” Concord City Manager Lloyd Payne said. 

“Continued development such as this project enables us to become more independent and perpetuate our ability to operate as a full-service city.” 

Cabarrus County has one of the strongest county economies in the state with the average salary being the seventh-highest in the state and the fifth-highest median household income of $69,297 in 2018, according to the Department of Commerce. The county is on par with counties like Lincoln and Moore but behind the neighboring powerhouse county of Mecklenburg with an average salary of $71,689. 

Based on Cabarrus County’s economic development and higher average salary compared to other counties, the Department of Commerce designated it a Tier 3 county and is the eighth-most economically sound county in the state. The 20 least economically distressed counties are labeled Tier 1 counties are and eligible for corresponding advantages in economic recruitment.

State funding assistance

All three corporations received financial incentives from the state through the Job Development Investment Grant approved by the state’s Economic Investment Committee.  In total, the N.C. Department of Commerce offered more than $7 million in grants to the three companies. 

As part of the grant, all three corporations are eligible to receive potential reimbursement based on a number of factors, such as tax rates, labor availability and overall project development cost.

All JDIG reimbursements are distributed over 12 years on an annual basis. Ball Corp. is eligible for up to $3,084,000, Rauch for $3,057,000, and Red Bull for $1,008,000. 

The grant is only used in competitive situations in which an outside investor is considering other locations outside the state. The grant incentivizes companies to relocate to North Carolina, said David Rhoades, communications director for the Department of Commerce. 

Before deciding on North Carolina, Ball Corp. considered sites in Cherokee and Richland counties in South Carolina, according to state documents. The state and local governments had offered cash grants, withholding tax rebates and income tax credits. 

To receive the grant annually, the company must meet certain benchmarks and continue to maintain them on a yearly basis. For Ball Corp., the company must complete investing the proposed $383 million and have hired all 220 employees by the end of 2024.  It must also retain those jobs though 2034.

Meeting the benchmarks is vital for the department because the state taxes withheld from the new employees form a pool of money used to fund the grant, Rhoades said. As a result, it is in the best interest of the company to meet the demands to receive the annual award back as a reimbursement. The department works closely with the Department of Revenue to ensure employee hiring goals have been met. 

If, in a particular year, the company fails to meet the proposed goals or drops below 90 percent of jobs or 198 jobs in the case of Ball Corp., it does not receive the tax break for that year. It is still eligible to receive it for the coming years, but the money for that year is lost, Rhoades said.

The county and city match funding

In addition to the JDIG funding, the city of Concord and Cabarrus County offered a combined $54 million in incentives to the three companies over the course of seven years. 

Through the 85% Economic Development Incentive Grant, the companies will pay 100% of their property taxes based on new investment to the city based on an evaluation from Cabarrus County’s Tax Assessor’s office, Payne said. After completing the payments, the companies would then request back 85% of those paid taxes. 

The 85% is consistent with the city and county’s economic development policy. City officials approved the grants on Aug. 12. The county Board of Commissioners conducted a public hearing Monday and voted to approve the grants. 

If approved, Rauch would receive more than $28.3 million in grants, Ball Corp. more than $18.7 million and Red Bull more than $7.5 million, according to county documents.

After the grants are awarded, the county and city combined will net almost $10 million in taxes. 

“This project will impact not only the city of Concord but neighboring cities,towns and counties as the companies’ future employees will come from other areas aside from just Concord,” Payne said. 

Finding and housing a workforce

The companies will hire locals, according to Page Castrodale, executive director of Cabarrus Economic Development. To train the necessary workforce, the county turned to Rowan Cabarrus Community College and the larger North Carolina community college system. 

RCCC has agreed to partner with the companies and provide the necessary training, but no plans have been formalized yet, said Craig Lamb, vice president of corporate and continuing education at RCCC. 

Even with the hires being local, the city of Concord is facing a housing shortage due to explosive growth in recent years, said Margarethea Sheller, Concord’s housing manager. According to the most recent census data, the city’s population grew 21.4% between April 2010 and April 2020, making it 24th-fastest-growing city in the country.  

According to a 2019 Affordable Housing Market Study, the city needs an additional 3,000 units over the next decade to meet demand. In response, the Concord Planning Department plans to build and preserve existing workforce housing units. 

The city will purchase homes, renovate and then sell back the buildings at a market rate to eligible applicants. However, to ensure the units remain affordable, the buildings will be sold back with a deed restriction that will limit property prices and rental prices, Sheller said.

Most recently, the city voted in favor of buying a group of vacant lots and soon-to-be demolished houses across the city to acquire the necessary land to build affordable housing. The city purchased four vacant lots and two houses for a total of $150,050, according to city documents.

The city also partnered with the developer of the Coleman Mill property to convert the old mill into 152 affordable housing units. On Lincoln Street, the city is developing 28 affordable town homes: 20 will be for sale, and eight will be rented out. 

The city will not be able to meet the demand by itself and has partnered with Habitat for Humanity to further help reach the goal. In 2019, the city also established Concord Family Enrichment Association, a nonprofit dedicated to affordable and workforce housing. The city buys and sells properties, whereas CFEA focuses on managing and operating rental units.

“We want to provide jobs for our citizens, homes for our citizens, and the associated amenities they want (and) need,” said Payne. 

“We feel this creates a quality of place whereby our citizens can live, work, and play without the need to leave the city for their basic life amenities.”

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Arturo Pineda is a Carolina Public Press reporter and a Report For America Fellow. Arturo is based in Charlotte. Email to contact Arturo.