RALEIGH, N.C. (Sept. 12) — It took only two days for the North Carolina General Assembly and the governor to negotiate and approve a compromise bill Sept. 11 that provides incentives for both Goodyear and Bridgestone/Firestone to upgrade their tire plants in the state.
The General Assembly, which had adjourned in August, reconvened Sept. 10 for a special session to consider a vote to override Gov. Mike Easley´s veto of a $40 million incentives bill for which Goodyear was the only tire maker eligible. The bill provided grants to companies with at least 2,000 full-time employees that planned to invest $200 million in capital improvements over a five-year period. Goodyear employs 2,750 at its passenger/light truck tire plant in Fayetteville, while BFS has just 1,875 workers at its Wilson factory.
Gov. Easley said he vetoed the bill because it set a "dangerous precedent" by providing funds to a company, particularly Goodyear, without a guarantee that it wouldn´t layoff up to 25 percent of its work force.
Under the new amended plan approved by the General Assembly and signed by the governor on Sept. 11, an eligible company must employ, and agree to maintain, at least 2,000 for the full term of the grant agreement. The eligible company must also invest at least $200 million in capital improvements within a six-year period.
BFS believes it is eligible for the grant because of several amendments, including the provision that it can count full-time contractors, increasing its plant employment figure to about 2,200, according to a company spokesman.
The state will provide a total of $60 million in grants over 10 years divided among no more than five companies. Based on the criteria and current data, such as tax bases, House Speaker Joe Hackney´s office estimated Goodyear could be eligible for about $24 million and BFS for about $22 million in grants under the program.