Local leaders prepared to offer over $1 million to lure Carvana to Concord site

Local officials in Concord approved agreements that would offer Carvana over $1 million in incentives to put a facility at the old Philip Morris site.
Local officials in Concord approved agreements that would offer Carvana over $1 million in incentives to put a facility at the old Philip Morris site. Observer file photo

County and city officials are prepared to offer online used car retailer Carvana over $1 million in taxpayer incentives to put an auto inspection and recommissioning facility at the old Philip Morris site, officials said in recent meetings.

The county’s grant was approved at the Cabarrus County Commissioners meeting Monday. It is valued at around $660,450, Samantha Grass, recruitment project manager for Cabarrus Economic Development, told commissioners. Concord’s City Council approved around $428,400 worth of grants this month.

The grant is tied to returning a portion of the property taxes back to the company over three years if it meets certain criteria laid out in the agreement.

Within the first three years, the project would create 304 jobs, paying an average wage of $40,560 for full-time employment, according to the agreement approved at Monday’s meeting.

Grass told the Observer Friday that the company is looking at several locations, and that it has said its final decision will be based on state support and other incentives.

David Rhoades, a spokesman for the North Carolina Department of Commerce, declined Tuesday to discuss any potential state involvement. The agency doesn’t comment on pending conversations until companies announce their decision publicly.

The Concord site, now known as the Grounds at Concord, was once home to the Philip Morris plant, which opened in 1983. But the cigarette maker’s parent company announced plans in 2007 to close the plant and consolidate work in Virginia, which impacted all 2,500 workers in Concord.

Grass told commissioners that the Carvana project would make up about 4% of the 2,100 acres that comprise the Grounds at Concord.

“We can end up with a number of different businesses,” Concord Mayor Bill Dusch said in an interview Monday. That way, if one entity leaves, “we’re not in dire straights,” he said.

County Commissioner Lynn Shue said in the meeting that there could be a dozen or more employers on the site.

“If it’s 90 acres for this site and its 304 jobs, well it wouldn’t take but just a few to overcompensate what we had with Philip Morris as far as jobs are concerned,” he said.

Dusch said Philip Morris had been the county’s largest tax base.

In January, Charlotte investment firm Bootsmead LeaseCo LLC said that it would soon demolish buildings at the former plant.

In the county meeting, County manager Mike Downs said that all but one of the tobacco warehouses in the back corner of the site had been torn down. Carvana would use that warehouse for its facility, he said.

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Danielle Chemtob covers economic growth and development for the Observer. She’s a 2018 graduate of the journalism school at UNC-Chapel Hill and a California transplant.