Tony Almeida, vice-president economic development for Duke Power, tells how the utility was involved with encouraging BMW to locate in South Carolina. “Duke Power’s chairman played a key role alongside the governor and policymakers in acquiring options on the property and getting incentive rate packages and worker training established,” he says.
Last year Duke Power, along with its state-official allies, helped attract Merck & Co to Durham County, North Carolina, where the pharmaceutical company will build a $300m vaccine making plant. The state has faced tough competition for pharmaceutical manufacturing from Ireland, Singapore and Puerto Rico, where companies have found handsome tax incentives, skilled labour and low business costs.
“This is a significant facility that puts North Carolina back on the map when it comes to pharmaceutical manufacturing,” says Mr Almeida. “Duke Power was involved with incentive rates and an investment fund to help defray some of the cost of the project. We also contributed money out of our Duke Energy Foundation to help with worker training at the Durham Technical College.”
Duke Power was instrumental in convincing the North Carolina General Assembly to approve $36m in incentives to land the Merck deal. The package entails $24m from a new fund to help Merck buy land and build the new plant, and a $4.7m tax break under a law that grants rebates on sales taxes paid for construction materials by pharmaceutical companies building plants valued at $100m or more. The plant should be running by 2008 and will employ 200 people.
While these monies will come from the state, Duke Power is setting up the Community College Challenge Grant Fund of $600,000 to help educate labour in North and South Carolina.
Over the years, Duke Power, with its two million plus customers, has traditionally supported economic development through competitive rates, reliable electric system and energy expertise, as well as its incentive rates and investment fund. To promote the Carolinas further, the utility company is broadening its economic development involvement by adding more senior management.
“We are building a much more pro-active, aggressive business development organisation,” says Mr Almeida. “We are hiring experts from target industries like automotive, pharmaceutical and plastics. We are also supplementing our state and regional efforts by networking with these industries to bring more prospects into our service areas.”