Saturday, October 23, 2021

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County commissioners deadlock over newest incentives for Lotus Bakeries

Alamance County commissioners deadlocked 2-2 on whether to provide another  $600,000 in incentives for Lotus Bakeries in Mebane, the Belgian company famous for its Biscoff cookies served on many airlines.

The tie vote means the incentives package fails. It was the company’s third request for incentives since the first was given in 2016 for establishing its manufacturing facility in Mebane.

The company has already received two rounds of incentives from both the county and the city of Mebane.

Commissioner Bill Lashley voiced philosophical opposition to incentives – a variance from the usual position of his father, the late county commissioner who generally supported industrial incentives.  Meanwhile, commissioner Pam Thompson said she thought a third round of incentives for the same company was unnecessary.

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Commissioner chairman John Paisley voted for the incentives package, as did vice chairman Steve Carter.  Commissioner Craig Turner was recused from the vote, saying that his law firm has represented the company and he felt it would be a conflict of interest to participate in a decision about incentives for the company.

This is the first time that the commissioners have turned down, or failed to approve, an incentives package for an industry relocating to, or expanding in, Alamance County.

Lotus had asked the commissioners for a sum of $600,000 over five years to offset the cost of a $60 million expansion of a facility that it already operates at the North Carolina Industrial Center (NCIC) in Mebane.

The Belgian confectioner originally set up shop at the North Carolina Industrial Center off South Third Street in Mebane after the commissioners approved an incentives package for a new $55.3 million bakery in the summer of 2016. Two years later, the company requested that its cumulative subsidies be increased by $262,000 after it announced that the plant’s anticipated tax value had been readjusted to $72.7 million.  Mebane’s plant is the only U.S. manufacturing facility for Lotus.

Lotus Bakeries first and so far only U.S. manufacturing plant is located in the North Carolina Industrial Center, off South Third Street, in Mebane.

The new investment represents more than an 80 percent expansion in the value of the plant – and its tax value for both the county and the city of Mebane.

Lotus’ latest proposal concerns the anticipated addition of facilities and equipment that are expected to add another $60 million to the plant’s taxable value.

According to county officials, the company also plans to expand its workforce in Mebane by 86 full-time employees with an average salary of $43,510 a year.

Unknown at present is whether the lack of one percent funding from the county will affect the company’s plans to proceed with its U.S. expansion.

Also unknown is how Mebane may proceed on its share of the incentives package.  While no date has yet been set for a hearing on the city’s incentives package, it is generally thought that the city council will take up the issue at its May 3 meeting.

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