Could the former Philip Morris site in Concord draw Toyota/Mazda or Amazon?

Local officials say the former Philip Morris plant on U.S. 29 in Concord could be an attractice location for a Toyota/Mazda plant or even
Local officials say the former Philip Morris plant on U.S. 29 in Concord could be an attractice location for a Toyota/Mazda plant or even

Concord suffered a blow last month when a battery factory at the former Philip Morris site filed for bankruptcy, but could the company’s demise leave room for a new industry to come to town?

Swiss-based Alevo Group SA arrived in Cabarrus County in 2014 with great fanfare, vowing to create hundreds of jobs through its revolutionary energy-storage technology, but production and hiring lagged projections. On Aug. 18, the company’s U.S. arms filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and said they would lay off 290 workers in Concord.

According to court filings, Alevo now intends to wind down its operations and sell off its assets, opening up the possibility that state and local officials could try to lure a new company to a massive campus that once housed a cigarette factory.

In economic development circles, a proposed joint Toyota-Mazda auto plant is among the hottest projects now being pursued around the country. Last month, North Carolina officials said the state is in the running for the facility, which could bring 4,000 jobs.

The other white whale that officials around the U.S. are hunting is online retailer’s planned second headquarters, which could create 50,000 jobs. The Charlotte and Raleigh areas have already said they will aggressively pursue the project.

Robert Carney, executive director of the Cabarrus Economic Development Corp., said the group is considering opportunities to assist the owner of the former Philip Morris property in case Alevo is no longer a tenant. Alevo leases the property from a Charlotte-based investment firm called Keeneland Capital.

“This 2,000-plus-acre parcel would be an attractive candidate for numerous companies, including Toyota/Mazda and Amazon, given the site’s attractive infrastructure and highway connectivity, the region’s highly skilled workforce, and the state’s pro-business environment,” Carney said.

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An Alevo production line where the battery cells were manufactured on the first floor in the old Philip Morris cigarette plant in Concord. Robert Lahser

Concord Mayor Scott Padgett said he hasn’t had any contact with Toyota/Mazda or Amazon, but noted the buildings on the Philip Morris site could be conducive to building autos.

“I think it would be great if they could come,” Padgett said of Toyota/Mazda. “The more manufacturing we can get the happier we will be.”

Wellford Tabor, managing partner of Keeneland Capital, declined to comment.

Rick Rothacker: 704-358-5170, @rickrothacker