Columbus draws ATM plant with 875 jobs, $42 million annual payroll with aggressive incentives

chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.comJune 2, 2009 

At a time when communities are shedding jobs by the hundreds, Columbus scored a major economic victory Tuesday, securing nearly 875 new manufacturing jobs.

NCR, formerly known as the National Cash Register Co., rung up huge incentives to move its corporate headquarters from Dayton, Ohio, to metro Atlanta and to locate an ATM manufacturing facility in Columbus.

“We sold the total Georgia package, including metro Atlanta and areas like Columbus and the other second-tier cities,” said Gov. Sonny Perdue.

The corporate headquarters and more than 1,275 will be located in Duluth. The company announced a call center last fall in Peachtree City. When the transition is complete, NCR will employ more than 3,000 people in Georgia.

While the state offered NCR more than $60 million in tax relief and other incentives, Columbus put together a $10-million package that included a guarantee of up to $7.5 million by the Columbus Consolidated Government to secure the plant. Three other Georgia cities, including Savannah and Macon, were in the running. Other cities from Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, Mexico and Brazil competed for the plant.

The Columbus job impact will be immediate.

NCR began accepting applications for the Columbus jobs Tuesday night. Plans call for the plant to be up and running by the end of the year with more than 200 employees. By the end of next year, the plant will employ more than 500 people and within five years it will have 873 workers, according to NCR’s commitment to the Development Authority of Columbus and the state.

And the jobs — which include engineers, manufacturing management, quality assurance, supply chain management and direct labor — will pay well. The manufacturing labor jobs will pay $40,000 or more a year. A number of the high-level jobs will pay $80,000 or more a year.

“We are returning manufacturing to America,” NCR Chairman and Chief Executive Office Bill Nuti said. “We are creating jobs, and as a company we have the courage to do it in America.”

To get up and running quickly, NCR will move into the Corporate Ridge Business Park facility formerly owned and occupied by Panasonic, which has been out of it for almost two years.

The 340,000 square foot facility was purchased for $5.2 million by the Development Authority of Columbus.

To make the deal happen, the Development Authority and city of Columbus got “creative and aggressive,” said Becca Hardin, the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce industrial recruiter credited by Perdue, Mayor Jim Wetherington and NCR officials as the one who deserves credit for her work on the project for the last four months.

How aggressive?

The city has said it will guarantee $7.5 million in incentives. The city has applied to the Economic Development Administration for $5.5 million in federal stimulus money to offset the cost of buying the Panasonic property.

“The city is the backstop in the event we don’t get the money from the EDA,” Wetherington said.

If the city has to fork over money for the project, it will borrow the money and pay it back at no more than $1 million per year, Wetherington said.

The city has also promised an additional $2 million for the NCR plant expansion that will begin next year. Late in the recruiting of the project, the state, through One Georgia funds, committed another $1.5 million for that expansion.

In addition to that there is $4.75 million to redesign the facility for NCR, and that work has to be completed by Oct. 31.

“It is very important for us to be up and running by the end of the year,” NCR Senior Vice President and Chief Operations Officer Peter Dorsman said during an Atlanta news conference announcing the plant.

The Development Authority, the economic development arm of the city that is affiliated with the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce, is borrowing $4.5 million for the project. NCR will lease the property from the Development Authority and pay that money back over 10 years.

Wetherington sold the deal, which was not discussed publicly because of confidentially agreements that were signed with the company, to Columbus Council in two closed sessions to discuss property acquisition. The last of those sessions was about two weeks ago, when councilors were told the name of the potential company.

Wetherington said no council votes were taken, but “I have the votes if I need them.”

Development Authority Chairman Dick Ellis praised Wetherington and council when the project was announced locally at the scheduled council meeting.

“If you didn’t do what you had to do, we wouldn’t be here tonight,” Ellis said.

“It was the right thing to do,” Wetherington said. “We could not afford to let this thing get away.”

One of the reasons is the payroll. When NCR is at full capacity, it will have an annual payroll of more than $40 million, It is also expected to produce another $2 million a year in additional sales tax revenue for Columbus.

In addition to the cash incentives, NCR will also receive tax breaks. •Years 1-3, no real or personal property taxes.

•Years 4-10, 50 percent payment on personal property.

•Years 4-20, 50 percent payment on real property.

•Years 11-20, 100 percent payment on personal property.

This includes property taxes paid to the Muscogee County School District.

The state had been working with NCR since last fall when the company announced 900 jobs for metro Atlanta. Perdue pointed with pride to the 3,000 new jobs.

“That equates to the core jobs brought by Kia,” Perdue said.

Kia, a South Korean auto manufacturer, will begin production later this year in West Point, about 40 miles north of Columbus.

“These are high-tech, high-skilled jobs — engineers, innovators, marketers,” Perdue said. “They will be highly paid individuals, well above the average pay in the communities they will be located.”

It is believed to be the largest job-growth announcement in Columbus for a company that was not born here. In 1982, Pratt & Whitney brought about 800 high-paying manufacturing jobs to Columbus. Development Authority member Jimmy Yancey was also involved in bringing Pratt & Whitney to Columbus.

“This is big, if not bigger,” Yancey said. “This is creating jobs in this economy, when you are seeing the opposite elsewhere. Companies are putting plans like this on the shelf.”

Wetherington, in very simple terms, summed it up this way:

“This is a good day for Columbus, Georgia.”

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