Commissioners OK incentive for data center

The McDowell County Commissioners approved an economic development incentive for an unnamed data center that is interested in occupying a section of the Universal Advanced Manufacturing Center and employing 20 people at the start of its operations.

The commissioners held a public hearing about the economic development project during Monday’s regular meeting. During the hearing, they heard a report from Chuck Abernathy, who is the executive director of the McDowell Economic Development Association (MEDA) and the former county manager.

Abernathy said this company would like to use a 35,560-square-foot section of the Universal center. He said the data center plans to operate a number of facilities simultaneously and one of them would be in McDowell County.

“Sometimes we hold a public hearing and the company doesn’t follow through,” said Abernathy. “This looks very promising.”

Abernathy declined to name the data center that is interested in coming to McDowell or give any specifics about its operation.

“It’s not a household name,” he said to The McDowell News. “It’s more cutting edge.”

He said this public hearing would concern the first phase of the project. The second phase will take place in March and servers will be moved into the 35,560-square-foot section.

The company plans to invest $15 million to $20 million in machinery and equipment and employ 20 people at the start of its operation.

“Data centers don’t employ a lot of people but they pay very well,” said Abernathy.

He added a person who has a two-year associates degree from a community college could be an employee of this company.

During the public hearing, a couple of people spoke about the project.

Jack Raker asked if there will be any impact to the other tenants at Universal. Abernathy said there would be none.

Louie Parrow said he hopes to see local people hired as employees with this business.

After the public hearing, the commissioners considered the incentives that would be offered. The proposed incentive totals $333,825. It would be an incentive payment of $226,875 over a five-year period plus $106,950 in free/reduced rent for year one and year two. The incentive would be paid after the taxes are paid for the year by the company, according to County Manager Ashley Wooten.

The commissioners voted to approve the incentive for this data center.

Abernathy also talked some more about the plan to build an unfinished “shell” building on the property that could by a prospective industry. The rest of the site, which has two ponds, could be used for recreational purposes complete with walking trails, a softball field and a soccer field.

“I love this whole project because it is a multi-use setting,” said Commission Chairman David Walker.

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