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By Michael Praats Hickory Daily Record
Posted Jan 18, 2017Updated Feb 8, 2017

NEWTON – The Catawba County Board of Commissioners held public hearings Tuesday night to determine the future of two major companies in the county, GKN Driveline and Apple Inc.

Economic Development Corporation Director of Business Recruitment Julie Pruett presented the board with the presentation on behalf of GKN Driveline.

“GKN Driveline has been growing tremendously over the past couple years in Catawba County,” Pruett said.

GKN manufactures all-wheel drive and E-Drive components at their Catawba County location and supply parts to almost every major automotive manufacturer, Pruett said.

GKN had several other possible locations for expansion including Mexico and Ohio, but eventually decided to pursue the expansion in Maiden.

The products produced will see a worldwide market, according to documents provided by GKN.

GKN has requested the county offer an incentive-based grant after promising to invest a minimum of $110 million and create an additional 143 new jobs.

GKN expanded in 2014 and the total investment in the community totals $122 million and providing the county with 228 new jobs.

County commissioners voted to approve the incentive based grant, which will return a percentage of money put into the county over six years.

GKN must meet their promised expenditures as well as job creations in order to receive the incentives.

The incentives are, “…based on the minimum investment of $110,000,000 and 143 new jobs within three years, with a maximum payment of $193,200 Year 1; $427,800 Year 2; $396,808 Year 3; $423,775 Year 4; and $316,250 Years 5 and 6, for a total maximum incentive of $2,074,083,” Pruett said. 

The numbers presented to the commissioners did not take into account depreciation, she said, meaning the amount paid by the county will likely be less. 

“GKN is the third largest employer in Catawba County and one of the top five tax payers in the county,” President of the Economic Development Corporation Scott Millar said.

Commissioner Sherry Butler made a motion to approve the incentives with GKN and the board approved the vote unanimously.

Millar presented the second public hearing regarding the expansion of Apple Inc. in Catawba County.

Apple first made an agreement with Catawba County in 2009, pledging to invest $1 billion in the county and create 50 jobs within 10 years, Millar said.

“Apple has far exceeded those commitments, having spent almost $3 billion and having created over 400 permanent on-site jobs in less than 7 years,” Millar said.

Apple is expanding their Catawba County site and requested the county amend their original agreement to include a new acquisition of 237 acres of land.

Apple has agreed to invest an additional $1 billion in Catawba County if the board approved the amendment to the plan.

One resident spoke during the public comments section voicing his concerns about the expansion and the new construction. He requested new construction of buildings to not exceed the bottom of a berm, a raised barrier separating two areas, and possibly limit the height of the new buildings.

Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the amendment with Apple Inc.

The board also heard presentations regarding the amendment of county ordinances to allow Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores to place exterior signs larger than what county regulations allow.

Current regulations state a wall sign can be up to 10 percent of the area of the wall, but not exceed a total of 32 square feet. Love’s requested the county amend the ordinance to allow up to 100 square feet of exterior signage.

Commissioners passed the amendment unanimously.


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