Two public hearings were held Monday by the McDowell County Commissioners about economic development projects, one for a new company seeking to start here and the other for the expansion of an existing one in McDowell.

During the regular meeting, the commissioners heard from Chuck Abernathy, former county manager and now the executive director of the McDowell Economic Development Association (MEDA), about these two projects.

For the first one, Abernathy said it is a new manufacturing company that is seeking to take over an empty existing building in McDowell and start operations at that site. This manufacturer will create 22 new jobs.

Abernathy declined to name the company but said after the meeting it would “fabricate products for home construction.” He declined to name the building that this company is interested in using. He said he did this at the company’s request, which asked not to be identified yet.

After hearing no comments from the public, the commissioners approved an incentive of $66,000, which would be paid over a three-year period.

As for the second project, Abernathy said this one is “more interesting and exciting.” It involves a manufacturing company already operating here that is seeking to expand its operations and “cement their position here in McDowell County as an employer,” he said.

Prior to Monday’s meeting, county officials understood this company plans to create 90 new jobs during the expansion. They were considering an incentive of $354,334 over a three-year period to help make this happen. But Monday morning, Abernathy heard from the company and was told that it could be 150 new jobs. In addition, the company is seeking to get a building reuse grant from the N.C. Department of Commerce and a One North Carolina grant.

Like the other one, Abernathy declined to name this existing company. He said the state would have to make the announcement.

“This is really a big deal,” said Abernathy to the commissioners. “It might be the biggest deal you will see this year.”

He added that both of these projects could be announced in February, resulting in a total of 172 new jobs in McDowell.

“I think 2017 is going to be quite a year,” said Abernathy.

Abernathy said he is still working with other economic development projects from last year, including two that are seeking to move into parts of the Universal building.

After closing the hearing, the commissioners approved the incentive for the existing company that wants to expand.

The commissioners held a third public hearing on Monday but this one was about closing out a Community Development Block Grant which provided additional training for Randall Conley, management assistant. Last year, Conley participated in the Commerce Fellows training program at East Carolina University and learned more about local government and community improvement. During the hearing, he gave a report to the commissioners about his participation.

“We are excited about the work you are doing,” said Chairman David Walker to Conley. “You always do a fine job for the county.”

In other business, the McDowell County Commission:

  • Recognized Miss McDowell High School, Miss Titan and Mr. MHS for their accomplishments. Miss McDowell High School is senior Kaitlyn Helton. Miss Titan is freshman Piper Styles and Mr. MHS is senior Dakota Merrilll.
  • Heard the annual audit presentation from Kathy Atkinson with the accounting firm of Johnson, Price & Sprinkle. She said the county’s fund balance, the undesignated part of the budget that is set aside for unforeseen needs, is now at 24 percent of the general fund and the county’s debt has decreased. “All in all, this is a very good audit report,” said Atkinson. After the presentation, the commissioners accepted the audit report.
  • HeHHeard a report from County Manager Ashley Wooten about the public hearing held by the state last week concerning the reclassification of Lake James. The hearing drew about 15 people to McDowell Technical Community College. Wooten said he told the crowd that this is a long-range project by the county to use Lake James as a source for a water system. He said the people at hearing were “overall supportive of the project” but asked for some clarification.
  • Watched a PowerPoint presentation about the county’s accomplishments during 2016. It covered such areas as education, economic development, improving and upgrading county facilities, emergency services, the public infrastructure, recreation and the environment.
  • Approved the list of goals for the upcoming Legislative Conference by the N.C. Association of County Commissioners.
  • Agreed to donate an unused milk cooler at the Senior Center to the school system.