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Rowan County willing to pay Freightliner to prevent layoffs

Rowan County hopes a tax incentive of more than $200,000 will stem the tide of layoffs at a Freightliner Truck plant in Cleveland. WFAE's Julie Rose explains: Cities, counties and states typically offer tax incentives to companies who promise to create new jobs in a region. Rowan County's offer is unusual because Daimler Trucks could get the money without creating a single new job - just as long as it doesn't lay off any more people at its Cleveland plant. "Bringing new jobs is fantastic, we love it. But look, let's try to hang on to what we have," says Rowan County Commission Chairman Carl Ford. The commission voted unanimously this week to give Daimler Trucks a tax rebate of about $230,000 over the next five years. In exchange, the company would promise to keep at least the 695 jobs currently at its Freightliner plant in Cleveland. Just five years ago, more than 4,000 people worked there. But Freightliner and its parent company Daimler Trucks have suffered in the recession. Now Daimler is negotiating with the Department of Defense to build military trucks, and has said it might expand the Cleveland plant if it gets the contract. That could mean 400 new jobs in Rowan County. Commissioner Ford says the tax rebate would be worth it just to prevent more layoffs. "In this day and time and with the economy the way it is, it's hard to turn away jobs," says Ford. "And could you really look into these peoples eyes and say 'Sorry, we can't help you out?' And I'm not talking about the corporation, I'm talking about the employees." In a written statement, Daimler Trucks spokesperson Amy Sills says the company appreciated the incentive option, but is still considering a variety of locations for the military truck operation.