The city of Columbus’ attempt to get $5.5 million in federal stimulus funds for the NCR plant set to open here later this year has been denied by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The Development Authority of Columbus was notified Thursday that the application for the money was not approved, Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President for Economic Development Becca Hardin confirmed Saturday.
It will not impact the decision by NCR, which will manufacture ATMs in the old Panasonic battery plant, to locate the facility in Columbus. The company has already hired about 50 people and is conducting training classes in the building as it is being rennovated. Production is set to begin in October.
“As originally submitted, they couldn’t support it,” Hardin said. “Our original application was put together so quickly, we were not able to use the federal percurment bidding process.”
The plant will bring about 870 new jobs to Columbus.
But the news of Columbus’ intentions to use federal stimulus funds to purchase the building drew political heat from Ohio, where NCR had been headquartered.
At the same time the manufacturing facility for Columbus was announced, Georgia scored a huge economic development coup, luring the NCR headquarters and 1,275 corporate jobs away from Ohio and to the Metro Atlanta suburb of Duluth.
The debate and lobbying over whether Columbus should get federal funding went to the highest levels of government. Vice President Joe Biden, in a letter dated July 14, assured two Ohio congressmen, U.S. Rep. Mike Turner and House Minority Leader John Boehner, that Columbus would not receive $5 million in federal stimulus funds to help bring NCR jobs to that state.
Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue took exception to that.“Assertions that stimulus money is moving jobs from Ohio to Georgia are simply not true,” Perdue wrote. “The bottom line is this new factory in Columbus, Georgia, will bring jobs that were outsourced overseas back to the U.S. We believe the manufacturing project is exactly the type of economic development project that you and the President have looked to foster with the stimulus funds and respectfully request your support of Columbus’ application.”
Columbus is not giving up federal help, Hardin said.The Development Authority and Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce have engaged Republican U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, as well as Rep. Sanford Bishop, a Democratic congressman with ties to President Barack Obama, for help.
Hardin will lead a group from Columbus to meed with federal Economic Development Administrationofficials at the Atlanta regional office next week.
“They have committed to wanting to help us,” Hardin said. “We are going to meet and try to figure out other ways. There could be some infrastructure help in and around the site.... This is right in line with the Obama Administration has talked about to bring jobs back to the U.S. It is within the rules and federal guidelines of what we can do.”
The bad news for Columbus was met with satisfaction in Ohio, still stinging over the loss of NCR. Hardin and others in Georgia strongly contend that not a single Ohio job was lost to Columbus. But that is not the way the folks in Ohio saw it.
“The consolidation created, which included jobs from Ohio, is one big project and cannot be separated,” U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, told the Dayton Daily News on Friday. “The administration has prevented Georgia from using our tax dollars to take jobs from Ohio.”
At the time the deal was announced in early June, Wetherington said the city had “a backstop in the event we don’t get the money from the EDA.”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 at the time.