Caldwell applies to join foreign-trade zone

Dec. 11, 2013 @ 07:34 AM

Caldwell County is applying to join Charlotte's foreign trade zone, economic development officials announced Tuesday.

If the application is accepted, it would provide some export advantages to companies here, Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission, said at an EDC board meeting Tuesday. And that in turn would become a recruiting tool as the county tries to lure new businesses.

According to the Charlotte Regional Partnership, among the advantages of zone status is that it allows companies to export goods duty-free, which makes the products more competitive, and importers have a choice of paying duties (U.S. taxes) either on raw materials imported or on the finished products only when they enter U.S. commerce.

"That is something that will bolster trade opportunities for businesses already operating here," Murray said.

Murray also gave a preview of the 2013 end-of-year review of EDC projects, which stand at: 19 projects, compared to 15 last year; $69.17 million projected private investment, not counting Google's $600 million expansion, compared to last year's $37.5 million; pledges of 664 jobs to be created, compared to last year's 682; and $21.64 million in projected annual wages, compared to $18.6 million projected from last year's projects.

The jobs pledged in 2013 projects also pay on average higher wages than the ones in 2012 projects, she said: The new jobs pledged in 2012 carried average projected wages of $27,273 a year, compared to the existing average of $29,640; and the new jobs pledged in 2013 carry an average projected wage of $32,590, compared to the existing countywide average of $31,119.

"We're attracting higher-paying jobs," Murray said, stressing that as an ongoing area of emphasis in order for Caldwell County to complete its climb out of so-called Tier 1 counties, which is the state's designation for the 40 most economically distressed counties. In the state's most recent annual analysis, Caldwell was the 35th-most distressed county. The Tier 1 designation makes businesses considering coming to Caldwell eligible for extra incentives from the state, but it would be better to have a more stable, sustainable economy, Murray said.

"I seriously doubt we're going to climb out of Tier 1 (in 2014), ... but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be a goal," Murray said.

She also highlighted that the value of building permits issued in Caldwell County hit $55 million in 2013, up from $40 million in 2010, and commercial permits alone hit almost $35 million, up from about $12 million in 2010.