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Forsyth County Hopes To Win Caterpillar With Tax Breaks

Officials in Forsyth County are hoping Caterpillar will fill some of the void soon to be left by Dell and they're using similar tactics to attract the heavy equipment manufacturer. The new plant could create 500 jobs, most of them in manufacturing. But Forsyth County has competition: Spartanburg, South Carolina and Montgomery, Alabama are also in the running. Forsyth County commissioners approved $10 million in tax breaks this week to lure Caterpillar to the area. Winston-Salem City Council is expected to approve $13 million in incentives next week. County Commission Chairman David Plyler says it's a safe investment. "We're not putting any money into it that we would lose and, in fact, we as a county stand to net $7 million after everything is done," says Plyler. Caterpillar has its eye on a large swathe of land beside Dell's computer plant. Six years ago, Dell was promised about $300 million in state and local tax breaks to move there. But last year Dell announced it would close the Forsyth County plant. Dell has repaid all of its local tax breaks, but is still negotiating with the state. Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines says he's heard little opposition to the Caterpillar incentives, possibly because people saw no local money was lost in the Dell deal. "We received every penny back that we invested into it and the plant is still sitting there with the company still paying over a $1 million in annual property taxes," says Joines. "As opposed to something not working, citizens see if structured properly incentives can work and can protect the city's investment." If Caterpillar chooses Forsyth County the facility could begin operating at the beginning of 2012.