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Compromise benefits county

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By The Staff

Project Palomino became a reality because of incentives and compromise. Project Palomino, as it was dubbed in the early stages, is the Finland-based company Metso Power Corp.

Metso held a ground-breaking ceremony recently for its $13.5 million plant on a 21.4-acre site in the Lancaster Business Park. The firm that produces boilers for large industrial projects is expected to create 50 new jobs that pay between $15 and $30 an hour.

But it almost didn't happen. Lancaster County Council and Lancaster County Economic Development Corp. had worked with Metso officials trying to get the company to locate here.

Metso was offered a nice incentive package. County Council agreed to sell the land for $100. In return, the county would get a 101,000-square-foot building, good paying jobs and the investment.

The incentive package also included the standard fee-in-lieu tax agreement, a 95 percent special source revenue credit and a general warranty deed for the property.

Metso has facilities throughout the Southeast and an administrative office in Charlotte.

Even with the lucrative incentive package, the company that will employ mostly welders, had reservations about the offer. The Lancaster Business Park is located on the S.C. 9 Bypass. The business park was built in the 1990s as a joint venture by the city and county. The intent, of course, was to bring in companies and businesses benefiting both the city and county.

But the city needed a new City Hall. And its debt portion of the business park would put it over its bond-debt limit preventing it from getting a bond for City Hall. So, the city pulled out of the business park venture.

The county has had some success with the marketing of the park. Neither of the two businesses are located in the city limits.

The city has an ordinance that requires annexation to supply water and sewer and the Metso property is located in the city limits. Annexation for Metso would have meant the company paying $105,000 in taxes to the city annually, which it didn't want to do.

Metso sought an exemption from the city. But the city didn't want to grant the exemption and Metso's interest waned in locating here.

Several city and county officials began negotiations to find a solution. To their credit, they came up with a compromise.

The county agreed to give the city 50 tax mills of payment each year from fee-in-lieu of property tax agreements if the city agreed to provide water and sewer services to companies that locate in the business park. In return, businesses that locate in the park won't be required to be annexed into the city.

The compromise suited Metso Power-North America President David King just fine.

Officials worked together to create "the most competitive incentive package" in the region, King said.

"They absolutely did," he added.

King said local officials remained professional throughout the process and kept the company interested in locating here.

We're glad they did.

County Council Chairman Rudy Carter summed it up well when he said, "Just like Mr. Rogers said, it's a wonderful day in the neighborhood."

He's right. Landing Metso was a great accomplishment.

It took incentives and compromise to achieve that accomplishment. We commend those who were committed to making this happen.

Good jobs are so hard to come by. It would have been sad to lose this employment opportunity for our Lancaster County residents.