County considers incentive to lure jobs

Catawba County Commissioners will look to approve an incentive agreement on Monday that could bring up to 80 new jobs to the area.

Last week, the Catawba County Economic Development Corporation (CCEDC) announced that German-based manufacturer Punker LLC plans to open a new manufacturing plant in Hickory. The expansion will bring at least 62 jobs to the area, with the potential to create 80 new jobs.

Punker produces fan parts for the HVAC and exhaust industries. The company's Hickory plant will be its first manufacturing operation in the United States, according to the CCEDC.

On Monday, commissioners will mull a proposed performance-based incentive agreement with Punker.

Should the company fulfill its planned minimum investment of about $4.5 million and 62 new jobs, the county will grant the manufacturer $44,475 over four years. If the company creates 80 jobs or more by Dec. 31, 2016, the grant will be extended on one additional year, with a grant payment of $18,224 in the fifth year.

Punker, a subsidiary of Punker GmbH, is headquartered in Eckernforde, Germany, and manufactures fan parts for more than 1,000 customers on every continent, according to the CCEDC. The company also manufactures cooling systems, roof fans, dust and smoke extraction and commercial ovens.

Henning Baehren, chairman and chief executive officer of Punker, said the company looks forward to expanding to the United States, and Hickory in particular.

"The location is very pleasant and close to our customers," Baehren said. "The state and county representatives did a great job presenting information about the state and county and showing us around the city.

They impressed us with their professionalism and attention to our needs."

Punker employs 300 people in Germany.

CCEDC officials said they started working with Punker in July as the company scouted Ohio and Southeast states for a location for the manufacturing plant.

"Our workforce, transportation networks and low-cost business environment makes Catawba County particularly attractive to manufacturing clients," said Julie Pruett, director of recruitment for CCEDC. "Punker is going to be a great addition to our already established cluster of German-owned manufacturers in Catawba County."

A $78,100 grant from the One North Carolina Fund also helped pay for the project to locate the company in Hickory. The fund provides financial assistance through local governments to attract business projects that will stimulate economic activity and create new jobs in the state.

DTC coordinator
Commissioners will also vote on a request to fund a Drug Treatment Court (DTC) coordinator position, operating and travel costs through the end of the fiscal year.

The request comes from Catawba County’s Supervision, Treatment, Accountability and Recovery (S.T.A.R) team, which was established in 2004 to help enhance and monitor the delivery of treatment services to chemically dependent adult offenders while holding them accountable for complying with their court-ordered treatment plans, according to a county memorandum.

Based on its mid-December start date, the projected cost of the DTC coordinator position is $22,000. The position was previously funded by the state, but was eliminated effective July 1, 2011, according to the county.