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CM Steel gets final OK for move to Lake Wylie

LAKE WYLIE -- Chris Thompson knows the current economy leaves his business with two choices -- standing still or standing steel.

Thanks to a favorable decision by York County Council last week, Thompson can continue moving forward with plans that could bring almost 100 employees to the Lake Wylie area. Charlotte Miscellaneous Steel, a subsidiary of Charlotte-based SteelFab, received unanimous approval May 4 to enter a fee in lieu of taxes agreement with the county in relocating its headquarters.

County economic developer Mark Farris said the fee in lieu of taxes is done "pretty regularly" for companies making large investments in York County, particularly when companies are considering a move either to North Carolina to South Carolina. The South Carolina manufacturing tax rate of 10.5 percent could drop closer to the commercial rate of 6 percent with the fee.

CM Steel represents an investment of more than $10 million, bringing 80 to 90 jobs from an existing shop off of S.C. 274 in Rock Hill and a facility in Charlotte.

"That will be existing, relocating and new," Thompson said of those jobs.

The building will include 70,000 square feet of manufacturing space and 9,000 square feet of office space. The headquarters will be on S.C. 274 near Campbell Road, just south of Big Allison Creek. In anticipation of a favorable fee decision, the company already began grading and standing steel, Thompson said, but the actual move likely comes toward the end of the year.

Thompson expected few problems with the county, mostly given his experience with the Rock Hill facility that employs about 20 workers.

"We already have business in York County," he said. "We're just expanding what we've got."

Councilman Tom Smith, who represents the Lake Wylie area, called CM Steel "about as friendly as a business as you're going to get in that area," given the industrial zoning. The steel fabrication business, along with a host of SteelFab companies in the greater Charlotte area, creates everything from supplies for hospitals, schools, condos and office buildings to stairs, rails, canopies and specialty items. The company was founded in 1985, currently operating from 8623 Old Dowd Road, Charlotte.

Almost 102 acres of land were purchased by CM Steel, valued by the county at $2.39 million. The fee should reduce the property tax liability for a 20-year period.

As for how many new jobs will be available, the company is waiting to see. Relocations can provide up to 50 percent or more of the total available jobs, Farris said, but the close proximity to Charlotte, Rock Hill and Gastonia means many employees likely would not have to move far. Some estimates put the new job count closer to 20 percent.

Thompson recognizes the current economy, as well as the economy when the move is made, likely will have as much or more impact on how many new jobs are available.

"We said when we started talking about this last year that there wasn't going to be a lot people who wouldn't move," he said. "That's the economy right now. By the end of the year, that could be a whole different ball game."

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