The Durham County commissioners approved an incentive deal worth up to $2.7 million for glassware maker Corning on Monday night, paving the way for the company to bring hundreds of jobs to northern Durham County.
Corning plans to invest $189 million to expand its Treyburn Corporate Park plant and create 317 new jobs over three years, including 269 manufacturing jobs. It has around 300 employees there now.
The Durham expansion accompanies another Corning-led expansion in eastern North Carolina in Edgecombe County, which will bring 111 new jobs to that county over two years, beginning in 2019.
The Durham County expansion was contingent on the county approving the $2.7 million incentive package. The new jobs in Durham would average $65,999 per year, while the ones in Edgecombe would be $33,771.
Corning is expanding to handle a new type of pharmaceutical packaging material called Valor glass and build an $86 million, “state-of-the-art” warehouse facility in Edgecombe County.
Last month, the state approved a $6 million incentive package for the Edgecombe and Durham expansions – part of a total $16 million package, composed of public and private incentives.
The state’s Economic Development Commission authorized most of the state’s share from Job Development Investment Grants (JDIG). Two other state grant programs tied to community colleges and biotechnology also contributed to the financial incentives. Duke Energy has also agreed to put $2 million into the project.
The county commissioners applauded the manufacturing jobs Corning is bringing, which are mainly logistics and machine-operating jobs that don’t require advanced degrees. Many of the jobs that have been added to Durham County’s surging economy in recent years require advanced degrees, which has left some residents on the outside of the county’s economic growth. Durham also has a lot of people commute into work from surrounding counties.
The manufacturing workers for the Corning jobs could be trained at Durham Technical Community College, which will offer customized training courses for potential employees.
“We are thrilled to have you grow and expand in Durham,” Commissioners Chairwoman Wendy Jacobs said. “These jobs, where you can virtually move from high school or an associate’s degree and make a very good living, are a great opportunity for our community.”
While the incentive agreement does not say how many of the jobs must go to local residents, Commissioner Heidi Carter – who said this was the first incentive plan she had voted on – suggested adding such language to future incentive deals.
Jacobs also added that the county needs to do a better job preparing its own workforce to take advantage of these job opportunities.
“We can’t just expect companies to come here and hire Durham residents. We have a lot of work to do (as well),” she said. “We need to put together a system, which I think is lacking right now. So when a company like Corning comes and says we want to hire 269 manufacturing workers, they can pick up a phone and we can say we have those people right here.”
The governor’s office estimates that the Corning expansion will add an estimated $1.16 billion to the state’s economy. South Carolina was the biggest competitor for landing the Corning expansion. It offered $47.4 million in incentives for the Durham project and $31.6 million for Edgecombe, according to the N.C. Department of Commerce.
The state and local incentive payments require Corning to meet certain job creation goals and investment targets in order to receive the annual grants over a period of time. The state’s commerce department says JDIG projects, such as Corning’s expansion in Durham, add to tax revenue even after accounting for incentives.
The incentive approved by Durham County would “function as equal annual cash payments from the County to the (Corning) over the proposed seven-year term of the incentive agreement,” Durham County General Manager Jay Gibson said.
The state’s incentive for the project pays out over 12 years.
Corning has been awarded previous JDIG funding for fiber optics manufacturing and, in 2015, for a headquarters for a limited liability company. The company has evolved from a glass and ceramics maker to manufacturing electronics components and health products for the pharmaceutical industry. It has 70 plants in 13 countries.