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Proposed plant could mean another 815 jobs for Cumberland County

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Cumberland County is in the running for a manufacturing project that could create 815 jobs — the latest major economic development deal being considered in the county.

An international maker of solar components is considering the jobs as part of a $159 million facility in an existing building on Corporation Drive, northeast of the intersection of Interstate 95 and N.C. 59, south of Fayetteville, according to a county notice published late last week.

The Cumberland County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to hold a public hearing on June 17 to discuss a proposed economic incentives package, including a county grant of up to $3.5 million to be paid out over five years.

The jobs would pay an annual average wage of about $53,000, according to the county. That’s about 15.3% more than the county average for private sector jobs, according to state Department of Commerce data.

The effort is dubbed “Project Smartie” by economic development officials. The identity of the company wasn’t disclosed in the county notice. County officials and a state Department of Commerce spokesperson also declined to name the company. Economic development deals tend to be highly secretive; companies request anonymity as they weigh expansion plans, negotiate with state and local governments and work to line up real estate.

The solar company hasn’t made a final decision on where it will expand; the company is also considering locations in other states, according to Robert Van Goens, the chief executive of the Fayetteville Cumberland Economic Development Corp.

Regardless of its ultimate decision, the interest alone is a positive for the county, Van Goens said. “It’s a sign that our message — that we’re an affordable and dynamic place to do business — is starting to resonate with decision makers,” he said.

Magnet for manufacturers

Manufacturing companies have been attracted to Cumberland County in part because of its strong road network — with access to north-south and east-west Interstates — and the availability of skilled talent, including thousands of soldiers who complete service at Fort Liberty and enter the civilian workforce.

“When you’re talking about coming here, you’re talking about a good workforce,” said Glenn Adams, chairman of the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners.

North Carolina is also already home to a number of other companies in the solar industry, and state economic developers have focused on luring more clean energy companies to North Carolina. Many homeowners, private businesses and local governments have shifted toward solar in recent years. North Carolina ranked No. 4 in the nation for the amount of solar energy capacity as of 2022, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. Only California, Texas and Florida had more.

Discussion of the project comes on the heels of the approval of county and city incentives for another manufacturer — American Titanium Metals — which is weighing a plan to invest more than $1 billion in a recycling facility in Fayetteville.

That company is proposing to initially invest $895 million in the facility and create 300 new full-time jobs by 2028, according to city and county notices. The company is considering a site off U.S. 401, north of Interstate 295, near a massive Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. plant.

American Titanium could ultimately increase its investment to more than $1 billion with new employment totaling more than 450 full-time jobs, the notices said. The jobs would have an average annual salary of at least $120,000.

The state Commerce Department’s Economic Investment Committee was scheduled to hold its regular meeting Tuesday. Officials were expected to consider one or more economic development proposals. It was unclear if any of the Cumberland County projects would be considered. No other details were provided on a state meeting notice, and a Department of Commerce spokesman declined to provide specifics about the agenda.

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