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NC loses out on major Toyota plant

Workers assemble engines at Toyota Motor Manufacturing in Huntsville, Alabama. North Carolina has lost out to Alabama on landing the much sought-after Toyota-Mazda joint auto manufacturing plant, which would have brought 4,000 jobs to the state and invested $1.6 billion.
Workers assemble engines at Toyota Motor Manufacturing in Huntsville, Alabama. North Carolina has lost out to Alabama on landing the much sought-after Toyota-Mazda joint auto manufacturing plant, which would have brought 4,000 jobs to the state and invested $1.6 billion.

North Carolina has lost out on landing the much sought-after Toyota-Mazda joint auto manufacturing plant, which would have brought 4,000 jobs to the state and invested $1.6 billion, The News & Observer has learned.

The decision is expected to be made public on Wednesday. The N&O learned of the decision through two sources familiar with the project.

North Carolina lost out because it does not have the supply chain logistics that the car companies want, according to one of the sources. The winning state was not disclosed but for months Alabama has been seen as the only rival to North Carolina for the project.

Toyota officials did not immediately return calls for comment. The N.C. Department of Commerce declined to comment.

News media in Alabama, including the website Al.com and the Birmingham Business Journal, reported Tuesday evening that unnamed sources were confirming Alabama as the choice for the facility.

North Carolina officials have been prepping a “megasite” in Randolph County near Greensboro.

The state has been trying to land an automotive plant for decades, and has built four “megasites” that could accommodate such a large industry. There are two megasites in Chatham County, one in Edgecombe County and one on the Guilford-Randolph county border.

Last year the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite Foundation amassed about $5 million to buy land and collaborate with regional government, business and educational groups in hopes of landing a major project like this. Randolph County recently rezoned 370 acres to add to the 1,500 acres that already comprise the megasite in an effort to consolidate land holdings there.

Alabama had an advantage in that it already produces engines in Huntsville, Ala. Alabama has other production facilities for the automotive industry. But the industry has also been expanding in North Carolina with a substantial operations presence of parts-makers and suppliers.

The car companies announced last year that they were looking for a place to establish a plant that would manufacture 300,000 vehicles a year. It is expected to make a crossover model for Mazda and Corollas for Toyota.

On Monday, AL.com reported that a prime site on land annexed by Huntsville had been the focus of increased activity in recent weeks, fueling speculation that Alabama was the chosen state. The Huntsville City Council in December began creating a special tax district that would pay for accelerated infrastructure.

North Carolina has financial incentives in place for the biggest of projects – designated as “transformative” – that go to projects that bring in at least 5,000 jobs and make $4 billion in investments. Those companies could receive grant disbursements for up to 25 years, if they meet hiring and investment promises.

The state enacted the transformative incentives last year, At the time the budget was being written, North Carolina was still in the running to land a major project by Foxconn Technology Group, a Taiwanese firm searching for a site to build a display panel plant employing up to 13,000 workers. In July, the company announced it had chosen Wisconsin. Gov. Scott Walker on Monday signed into law a $3 billion incentives package.

Craig Jarvis: 919-829-4576, @CraigJ_NandO

NC Governor Roy Cooper discusses the value of incentives to attract better paying jobs. Cooper's use of corporate incentives to court Amazon, Toyota has drawn fire from conservatives.

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