CHAPEL HILL- Masao Hoshino, President of Morinaga America, Inc., told Orange County Commissioners on Tuesday that state and local economic incentives played a significant role in the Japanese company’s decision to build its first American production facility in Mebane.
“We decided to locate in Mebane, Orange County because it has a remarkable business environment: access to transportation, access to raw materials, infrastructure, et cetera,” said Hoshino. “Additional encouragement is the incentives. It obviously supported our decision.”
By a unanimous vote, the Board of Commissioners agreed to offer Morinaga performance-based incentives including a $1 million dollar grant to be paid out over the next five years. The grant money would represent three-quarters of the annual tax value of the $34 million dollar facility.
In addition to investment from Orange County and the City of Mebane, the state will contribute slightly more than $1 million dollars to the project.
Located just outside of Mebane, the 21 acre site, which up until recently was used to grow soybeans, lacks water, sewer or direct road access. The county will partner with the state to cover the cost of extending water and sewer infrastructure, which could total $700,000. The state will pay 75 percent of that; the county will pay 25 percent.
NC DOT will chip in half a million dollars to build a road to access the plant, and Durham Technical Community College will offer training to new workers at no charge.
The nearly 100,000 square foot production facility is slated to employ 90 people in the production of Hi-Chew candy. Hoshino told the board it will be a green facility.
“At the planned facility we will cook sugar and syrup, add fruit juice, vegetable oil and other ingredients to make chewy candy,” said Hoshino. “In the process, we do not produce harmful materials, there is no chemical pollution. It is environmentally-friendly.”
Board Chair Barry Jacobs said this project represents the culmination of 20 years of planning to bring new businesses to the 400 acre Buckhorn Economic Development District.
“We have just started as a county to embark of the course of providing incentives to companies to either stay here or locate here,” said Jacobs. “This has been a very amicable and collaborative process and we feel it will be a very fruitful process for everyone concerned.”
He also thanked Orange County voters for approving the quarter-cent sales tax, as proceeds from that will likely be used to cover some of the cost to extend water and sewer to the plant.
The board also unanimously approved a $140,000 contract to hire an engineering firm to design the road, water and sewer extensions. Planners estimate the facility could open for business in July of 2015.