Formula One team excites county officials over economic growth potential

Cabarrus County and stock car racing have been synonymous for decades, but now the United States’ only Formula One team will call it home.

Less than a week after NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas was notified that he had been granted a license for a Formula One team, the California businessman announced the operation would be based in Kannapolis adjacent to Stewart-Haas Racing.

“We were in expansion mode at the Kannapolis Stewart-Haas Racing campus, where we were adding a building,” said Haas, founder of Haas Automation and chairman of Haas Formula, the name of his Formula One team. “So what we’re going to do there is take a portion of that building, and that will be the Formula One headquarters. They’re just putting up the roof on the building now, so we figure that’s another few months away.”

Haas and team principal Guenther Steiner said they would know within four weeks whether the team’s first season would be in 2015 or 2016. While Kannapolis will be the team’s headquarters, Haas said a smaller office for the assembling and disassembling of the cars could be located in either Germany or Italy.

Margie Bukowski, vice president of economic development for the Cabarrus Regional Chamber, said the Formula One team basing its headquarters in the county would drive economic growth by the suppliers it may bring and the people moving into Cabarrus County or neighboring counties for the business.

“Also, as they develop the building and the team, our hopes are that a supply chain will develop and more companies will come that will support them,” Bukowski said. “There are also a certain number of jobs, probably about 20, that will initially be brought as they get started. We also know that he owns Windshear, and it has been in Concord for quite some time. We would think this would bring increased business for them.”

Haas said Windshear, the full-scale rolling road wind tunnel his company opened in 2008 adjacent to the Concord Regional Airport, would be modified to run a scale model. That modification would allow the wind tunnel testing permitted under Formula One rules. However, the team would still have the ability to run verification of a full-scale model.

Bukowski said Haas didn’t ask for any tax incentives to locate the team in Cabarrus County, and none were given by the city or the county.

Haas said he initially planned to enter Formula One in a similar manner as he did NASCAR, when he partnered with Hendrick Motorsports for technical expertise. One of those possible technical partners he cited was chassis builder Dallara.

“We’re not going to go over there and say, ‘Build us a chassis,’ ” Haas said. “We intend to put our own people in there to learn these processes, because ultimately our goal is to become a constructor. That is our goal of Formula One, is to have a driver series and a constructor series. The constructor series is the part that we have to put together. The car will eventually evolve into our own car. I think the Kannapolis campus will basically be for manufacturing and engineering.”

Bukowski envisions Haas’ plans bringing new technology to the county, and Rowan-Cabarrus Community College perhaps becoming involved by helping provide training for people wanting to pursue a career in Formula One.

“There is just so much potential,” Bukowski said.

With Haas announcing the team’s location within a week after receiving his FIA license, Bukowski said the county’s economic development corporation had not had time to determine the international markets where Cabarrus County would be promoted.

“I’m sure as we get further down the road and get more information, specific names and industries, we’ll be able to go forward and promote it internationally,” Bukowski said. “We’re not quite there yet.”

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