Board approves incentives for Pierre Foods

The city of Claremont has a population of about 1,100 people.

At the end of the Pierre Foods expansion, the facility in Claremont will employ more than 1,200 people. This means that Pierre Foods could use every city resident to operate its facility on East Main Street.

Pierre Foods employs 717 people currently, and an ongoing expansion project will bring an additional 500 jobs in two years.

To retain Pierre Foods and the upcoming job creation, the Catawba County Board of Commissioners approved economic incentives Monday for the facility in Claremont, which produces fully cooked beef, pork and chicken products.

Nathan Huret, Catawba County Economic Development Corporation existing industry coordinator, said the Pierre Foods facility, if incorporated into the county, would be the sixth largest city.

The incentives require Pierre Foods to retain the new positions until 2020.

"We hold these companies to a very high standard for a very long time," Huret said.

In exchange for the company's $16.8 million investment in the county, Pierre Foods will receive a five-year, 67-percent grant, which is a maximum of $301,098 over five years. This grant amount was calculated by multiplying the company investment of $16.8 million by the county's tax rate for five years.

When the Claremont facility reaches 1,217 employees, it will be the county's fourth largest private employer, Huret said.

The incentive payment, however, is dependent on Pierre Foods' compliance with several requirements, including minimum job creation thresholds. Huret said the 500 new jobs are expected to be added at the facility by Dec. 31, 2012.

If Pierre Foods doesn't uphold its contractual obligation, its agreement with the county requires repayment of the incentives plus interest.

The company announced in March that it would expand the Claremont facility with a 35,000-square-foot, cold-storage expansion and a 10,000-square-foot, dry-storage warehouse. Pierre Foods CEO Bill Toler announced in March that an additional 500 jobs will come to the Claremont facility by the end of 2012.

The 500 new jobs will have an average wage of $26,461 a year. Sixteen of those 500 jobs will pay more than $32,500 a year.

Claremont City Manager Doug Barrick said expansion work to the building's exterior is complete.

"They're still working on some interior expansions," Barrick said, adding the facility is also upgrading some of its bakery equipment, including a 90-foot oven.

The facility expansion started this spring and was made possible through a $600,000 grant from the One North Carolina Fund.

Gov. Bev Perdue visited the Claremont facility in March to announce the expansion and job creation.

Pierre Foods has existing facilities in Ohio, South Carolina and Georgia. The company creates a line of fully cooked products for schools, food service, vending machines and retail markets. The Claremont facility produces about 1 million sandwiches a day.