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DavidsonNews.net: MSC Industrial Plans 'Co-HQ' At Exit 30, Up To 400 Jobs

Property is off I-77 Exit 30, behind Homewood Suites.

The property is off I-77 Exit 30, behind Homewood Suites. MSC Industrial Direct Co. Inc., a New York-based distributor of metalworking and industrial supplies, announced Wednesday it plans to co-locate its corporate headquarters in Davidson, creating as many as 400 jobs over the next five years. The company picked Davidson over sites in South Carolina, Kentucky and Charlotte. MSC plans to buy 14.7 acres off I-77 Exit 30 that long has been planned for a corporate office development. After Wednesday's press conference, Douglas Jones, MSC's executive vice president, said: "We did an exhaustive search around the country, and a lot of different variables played into that decision. We wanted a great place to live for our associates, something that aligned well with our culture." He said as the company grows, it wants to attract the industry's best talent. "We felt that Davidson would position us very well to do that," Mr. Jones said. Douglas Jones of MSC Industrial Direct Co. spoke to reporters after Wednesday's announcement. With him are Jerry Broadway of Lake Norman Economic Development Corp. (left) and Dale Carroll, N.C. deputy secretary of commerce. Photo: David Boraks/DavidsonNews.net The company plans to invest more than $31 million in a new, 180,000-square foot building on 14.7 acres off I-77 Exit 30, in the Harbor Place development. The land, behind the Homewood Suites hotel, has already been approved for three Class A office buildings totaling around 300,000 square feet, and economic development officials said they hope the company eventually will grow on the site. MSC plans to keep its headquarters in Melville, N.Y. Some employees could relocate to Davidson, while others will be hired locally. The company already has 64 people in North Carolina at offices in Asheville, Camp LeJeune, Charlotte, Greensboro and Raleigh. The Davidson site will house executives as well as technology, human resources, marketing and product management employees. The minimum average salary varies by position, but is more than $79,000 annually plus benefits, the company said. (The average annual wage in Mecklenburg County is currently $51,792.) The announcement came during an 11:30 a.m. press conference at Davidson Town Hall organized by economic development officials from the state of North Carolina, the Charlotte Chamber, and Lake Norman, as well as Davidson town officials. It was the second major announcement in Davidson in two months. On May 9, Carolinas Healthcare System announced plans for a $36 million, 66-bed mental health hospital off N.C. 73 east of town. That project is expected to bring 155 jobs when it opens in late 2013. RECRUITING WIN FOR DAVIDSON The state, county and town of Davidson offered economic incentives to help lure the company, which was considering sites in Fort Mill, S.C., Lexington, Ky., and a site in Charlotte's University area. Davidson Mayor John Woods spoke at Wednesday's event, with Douglas Jones of MSC Industrial. (David Boraks/DavidsonNews.net) "It's a great day for Davidson," Mayor John Woods told DavidsonNews.net. "The addition of a corporate location like this in Davidson is dream come true." Jerry Broadway, a business recruiter who leads the Lake Norman Economic Development Corp., compared Wednesday's announcement to the one in 2010 that brought Switzerland-based ABB Inc. to Huntersville. That company is investing $90 million to build an electric power cable plant in the Commerce Station business park, off N.C. 115, which eventually could employ about one-quarter of the workers of this project. "ABB created 100 new jobs in Huntersville. This is four times the jobs as higher average wages," Mr. Broadway said. Altogether, MSC said it was offered $14 million in incentives over 12 years. Gov. Beverly Perdue's office said state incentives to MSC could total $12.75 million, including an $11.7 million Job Development Investment Grant and $1.05 million from the state's One North Carolina Fund. Davidson's incentive was about $500,000, and the county offered a similar amount, according to Mr. Broadway. The town offered tax refunds of 90 percent for five years. Although the actual tax bill won't be known until the project gets built and appraised, town officials estimate the refunds could be around $99,000 a year over the five years, or about $495,000. The Davidson Town Board will vote on the incentive proposal at its work session Tuesday, June 26. To qualify for the full incentive, the company will have to meet targets for creating jobs. Officials said Wednesday the company expects to create 200 jobs in the short term, and to hit the 400 jobs target by 2017. The town has made economic development a priority in recent years as it tries to boost the commercial tax base and reduce the town's reliance on residential property taxes. Davidson officials said Wednesday the MSC project would boost the town's commercial tax base from 18 percent to 19 percent. Davidson Commissioner Laurie Venzon said MSC's announcement was exactly the kind of development the town has been seeking. "MSC's decision to locate in Davidson helps us further our economic development efforts to bring jobs to our town, and we are thrilled to welcome such an outstanding company to our community," she said. The 14.7-acre site has a tax value of $4.9 million, according to Mecklenburg County records. Undeveloped, the property brings in about $56,000 in annual taxes. Officials on Wednesday said the project as conceived would bring in about $250,000 a year in county and town taxes. MSC still has to bring forward plans for the new building at Exit 30, but hopes to break ground later this year, and open the site in 2013. EXIT 30 AREA DEVELOPS The Exit 30 area has been under development for more than a decade, and includes offices, Homewood Suites, Davidson Day School, the Rushco Davidson Market, and the Davidson Commons shopping center, anchored by a Harris Teeter that opened in 2008. Just last week, the town planning department held a public workshop to begin working on an update of area plans. Developers had dropped some proposals for the area amid the economic downturn in recent years, including a planned Sheraton Hotel and conference center. Others have come to the town for approval of projects that never happened. Meanwhile, the town board has approved a variety of planning ordinance and master plan changes. In April, commissioners approved changes to a conditional master plan for the Northeast Quadrant area, north of Jetton Street and east of the highway. The original conditional zoning was approved in 2004. The changes clarified that the maximum building height is 75 feet, removed a one-hotel limit in the area, and slightly reduced the size of permitted wall signs. The town also recently has revised its planning approval process in a move town officials have said it aimed at speeding approvals for developments like MSC Industrial. The new process replaces longer public design workshops with "public information sessions." Interim Planning Manager Ben McCrary told the town board last month these meetings would come earlier in the development process, would be based on developers' preliminary proposals instead of blank site plans, and could give citizens a chance for more influence in the process. The original proposal also eliminated public meetings for master plans in areas that have an existing small area plan. The theory was that the small area plans already are based on extensive public meetings and input. But commissioner Wessner said small-area plans could fall out of date. So commissioners agreed that if an area plan is more than three years old, approval of a master plan would require a public meeting. Master plans in areas lacking small-area plans also would require public meetings. And as long as they met the town ordinance, master plans will no longer require Town Board approval. Instead, they will come before the board for an "FYI" meeting. "The intent of this is to increase or improve the predictability and process under which our ordinance operates. It is not a loss of focus on the quality of developments," Mayor Woods said last month. RELATED LINKS MSC Industrial Direct Co. website, MSCDirect.com May 16, 2012, "After debate, board OKs more predictable planning process." May 9, 2012, "Carolinas HealthCare to build psych hospital on NC 73 Sept. 9, 2010, "'Project Fly' lands: ABB to build $90M plant, bring 100 jobs." CORRECTION: This article has been updated to note that a master plan for the land MSC is buying shows a potential three office buildings, not two. (See the 2007 Exit 30 area master plan here: http://davidsonnews.net/exit-30-map/