LIBERTY, N.C. (WGHP) – A provision buried on Page 293 of the state budget that North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law on Thursday has resurrected chatter about the potential for a new tenant for the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite.
Senate Bill 105 approves $338 million toward improvements that could lure a manufacturer to the 1,800-plus acres of Randolph County, just south of the Guilford County border, near Liberty. Toyota very nearly chose the megasite in 2018 for its plant with Mazda, which ultimately headed to Alabama.
But Toyota is back, looking for a spot to manufacture batteries for electric vehicles. The company announced on Oct. 18 plans to invest $3.4 billion in the U.S. through 2030, including a plan to spend $1.3 billion for a plant that would employ 1,750.
The company said it likely would name that location by the end of the year. And some industry observers have suggested that Kentucky, Texas, Missouri, Indiana and – yes, again – Alabama could be frontrunners for that facility.
Now here comes the NC General Assembly with its budget item that provides site developments and incentives for a company that would invest at least $1 billion and create 1,750 jobs.
Section 11.19 of the bill specifies some $135 million this fiscal year for site development, $100 million to mitigate wetlands and $35 million for roadwork and more wetlands. There is $185 million to reimburse the manufacturer for costs of further site work, roadwork and wetlands mitigation as needed.
Toyota Motor North America’s announced facility is a partnership with Toyota Tsusho, with a plan to begin production in 2025, starting with batteries for hybrid electric vehicles.
Economic developers typically don’t talk openly about potential deals, and no one contacted by WGHP would speak specifically about the concept of Toyota as a new tenant at the megasite or whether this bill appropriation was tailored to meet the requirements Toyota had specified.
“While we talk to many companies about their site location strategies and the advantages of doing business in North Carolina, we don’t discuss those conversations until such time as the company makes a public announcement of their site decision,” David Rhoades, communications director for the NC Department of Commerce, wrote in an email. “Regarding the proposed state appropriation for the megasite, our department frequently communicates with leaders in the General Assembly to ensure North Carolina stays competitive and in the best position to attract future economic investment opportunities. We will continue to work with state leaders so North Carolina can remain the best place to do business in the nation.”
State House Majority Whip Jon Hardister (R-Guilford), whose district abuts the megasite, noted the transportation upgrades and grants in the budget that were contingent on having a new tenant. He said he has not been involved directly in discussions with prospective companies – he cited the NC Department of Commerce – but he reiterated that lawmakers were a partner to any deal.
“We crafted the incentive model based on our observation on what would need to be done to attract a large manufacturing company,” Hardister wrote in an email. “We are focused on getting the site as shovel-ready as possible and demonstrating our commitment to economic development.
“Leadership in NC General Assembly has been in touch with economic developers and the executive branch, and our door remains open to collaborate with all parties – local government, private entities, etc. – to successfully attract an investor for the Megasite.”
State Sen. David Craven (R-Randolph) and state Sen. Amy Galey (R-Alamance), whose districts surround the site, have not responded to emailed questions about the site development.
Hardister noted that the budget’s plan to reduce business taxes to 0 would be a key facture in luring new companies, too.
The megasite, which was developed in 2011, is a partnership among Randolph County, Greensboro and the North Carolina Railroad, which owns the property. The site has been certified by KPMG and is described as “shovel-ready.”
The Toyota-Mazda plant would have brought 4,000 jobs to the area, but officials said the area did not have the supply chain outlets nearby that automobile companies prefer.