Regional Report Triad September 2011
Honda has its hand out again for more money
It’s not as if Guilford County doesn’t love Honda Aircraft Co. “They’ve hired all the folks they said they would and paid them higher wages than anticipated,” County Commissioner Billy Yow says. But Honda’s attempt to extract $9.4 million from the state and local government for a possible expansion of its Piedmont Triad International Airport operations is stoking a fresh debate over incentives: Should taxpayers continue to subsidize a global manufacturing superstar while local companies go begging?
“It’s just plain wrong,” Yow says. “There are a lot of businesses in town that have been here a long time and are struggling. If you’re going to do this for Honda, you ought to do it for them too.” Greensboro-based Timco Aviation Services Inc. employs more than 2,200 at the airport and does maintenance, which could compete with the service center that Honda wants to build. But the majority of Guilford’s county commissioners want to give Honda the money. Greensboro already has approved a $520,000 incentives package.
In 2007, state and local government granted the Tokyo-based giant $8 million to build its $100 million headquarters at Piedmont Triad International. It also has a $27 million jet-engine plant in Burlington, which employs 70. Now, Honda plans to build manufacturing operations. To make this happen in Guilford, it wants $8.1 million from the state for infrastructure and $775,000 in incentives from the county.
Though the company won’t comment on its plans, Honda secretly told Triad leaders its new operations would cost $80 million and might employ 300. It wants to start construction this month but won’t say if alternative locales are being considered. Many argue that Honda’s existing investment in the region — including the Burlington factory — dictates that it expand in the Triad regardless of incentives.
But critics say that won’t matter. “If you make any plausible argument that you’ll invest some money or create jobs … the government will subsidize you,” says Robert Orr, executive director of the Raleigh-based North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law. “Nobody says no.”
Direct economic impact on the Triad from the 2011 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships, held at Greensboro Coliseum Complex in January. That’s more than the $22 million generated by the 2011 Atlantic Coast Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament, also held in Greensboro. The Wyndham Championship golf tournament averages $25-$30 million a year.
Cost of the event to local organizers, including Cary-based Sports & Properties Inc., Greensboro Area Convention & Visitors Bureau and Greensboro Coliseum Complex.
Source: U.S. Figure Skating Association
Price a Massachusetts real-estate investment trust will pay for 26 of Greensboro-based Bell Partners Inc.’s senior-living properties. It’s part of a strategic shift — divesting senior-living and commercial holdings to focus on Bell’s 211 apartment complexes — outlined about 18 months ago. Bell will be left with two senior-living properties.