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Freightliner passed on Mooresville, N.C.

CHARLOTTE --Freightliner wanted to transfer 341 white- collar jobs from its Portland, Ore., headquarters to Moores-ville, N.C., next summer, but state officials couldn't come up with enough incentive money to beat South Carolina for the project, Mooresville Mayor Bill Thunberg told the Observer on Friday.

The company also planned to create nearly 500 additional jobs and develop one of sev-eral 200- to 300-acre parcels under consideration, the mayor said.

Freightliner's search for land in the Charlotte region has fueled speculation it will eventually move its headquarters to the region to be closer to several of its plants, including its largest facility in the Rowan County, N.C., town of Cleveland.

The nation's largest trucking company plans to develop a 400-acre tract near the Lake Wylie community, York County officials said Thursday. The company said it will move a sales and marketing division into 100,000 square feet of office space next summer and into the new facility within four years.

"Our whole incentives package couldn't match what South Carolina was offering. The financials of this particular project didn't meet the cost-benefit formula of the N.C. Department of Commerce," Thunberg said. "I guess they didn't feel a need to call a special session of the Legislature."

Mooresville and Iredell County, N.C., officials offered their own package of local incentives, Thunberg said. The York County Council discussed a package of transportation-related incentives in closed session Thursday. It plans to vote in open session Monday.

The N.C. Department of Commerce, which has declined to give details of the Freightliner negotiations, offers grants tied to job creation. The governor also can give money from the One North Carolina Fund. And the General Assembly is free to create legislation to offer various tax breaks and other incentives to attract particular projects.

But the mood for some incentives might be souring after widespread criticism of a state and local tax-break package for Google to build a server farm in Lenoir, N.C. The package of property and sales tax breaks is potentially worth more than $260 million over 30 years.

A recent bill designed to give the Goodyear Tire & Rubber up to $40 million to upgrade its Fayetteville, N.C., plant was vetoed by N.C. Gov. Mike Easley because the company planned to lay off some employees. A revised bill expanded the incentives program to include competitors, namely Bridgestone Firestone, which has a plant in Wilson, N.C. Easley signed the measure.

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