Business Editor

Not all wins for local economic developers as two companies have announced moves to Charlotte

February 23, 2014 

Two recent announcements broke a string of success for local economic developers.

Bonomi, an Italian maker of faucets and valves, has relocated its North American headquarters from Rock Hill to Charlotte. The company spent more than a year looking in York County but couldn’t find the right combination of office and warehouse/manufacturing space. Bonomi is investing about $2 million in a building and equipment at its new south Charlotte location.

Eleven jobs, with the possibility of four more, moved out of York County. Most of the employees will continue to live in York County, said Alberto Malaguti, general manager for Bonomi North America.

InChem Corp., a maker of specialty chemicals, including phenoxy, which is stronger than epoxy, announced it is expanding operations. It purchased the former Virkler chemical plant in Steele Creek in southwestern Mecklenberg County. It’s the same building that Bluestar Silicones almost moved to before deciding to stay local, moving from downtown Rock Hill to the East York Industrial Park.

InChem is making a $15-million investment in the plant, land and equipment and hopes to create 40 new jobs over the next three years.

In each case, company owners said it was the site that made the difference. Neither company is getting incentives from North Carolina, owners said.

While local economic developers would like to win every time, the two announcements are more than just the law of averages. They represent a shortage of suitable building inventory in York County – and elsewhere. Charlotte, too, has been feeling the pinch, and the result could be existing companies or prospects in both Carolinas bypassing the area.

The solution, at least in Bonomi’s case, is having more “spec” buildings – buildings constructed to meet anticipated needs. York County and Rock Hill each want to build a spec building – York County in the East York Industrial Park and Rock Hill in the Waterford Business Park.

York County wants to fund its spec buildings with the proceeds of the sale of its previous spec building to Coroplast, a maker of adhesive and insulating tapes. The 40,000-square-foot building in the Antrim Business Park was built using $1.2 million in utility tax credit funds from the York County Electric Cooperative and Comporium. Coroplast is investing $12 million and plans to hire up to 150 people for its first American manufacturing facility.

Bonomi looked at the Antrim building but passed on it. It is just one of a number of York County properties that were either too small or too big, Malaguti said.

Childress-Klein Properties of Charlotte is planing to build another office building in Kingsley Park, where it has already constructed and leased several buildings.

Yet spec building construction can take eight months or more, and it is possible the lack of regional inventory could be felt in increased measure.

Equipment tipped the scales

It’s a slightly different case for InChem.

The chemical manufacturing company was looking to expand; it needed another plant so the majority of its production was not at its Rock Hill facility, which it purchased in 1993.

The Virkler plant had all the equipment the company needed – lab space, utilities, a tank farm and processing equipment – said Steve Crownshaw, InChem’s president. “All of that had value to us,” he said.

Even with the acquisition, InChem plans to continue to expand at its Rock Hill and Duncan plants. Crownshaw said the Rock Hill plant is hiring and plans to add about 12 workers. Since 2008 the plant has expanded from 65 workers to 100. The Duncan plant could hire three more workers.

The addition of the Charlotte plant could be good news for some of the Rock Hill workers. They could be promoted and move to the new plant, Crownshaw said, opening up jobs at the Rock Hill plant.

“We’ve got more than $50 million invested in Rock Hill,” Crownshaw said. “It would cost a fortune to move” – something he said the company has no plans to do.

Don Worthington •  803-329-4066 •

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