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Archive for July, 2011

NC Commerce B&I Developers Visit Ferncliff

Product development is one key area where the Partnership dedicates energy and focus. In doing so, efforts are concentrated on preserving, preparing and advancing ideal sites and buildings. The end result is often site certifications, monitoring land use designations, and encouraging infrastructure extensions and improvements. In December of 2009, Ferncliff Industrial Park became a NC Certified Site. Over the past two years, the Partnership has been working to continue to develop Ferncliff as a world-class park. Not only does the Partnership reach out to prospective clients, but staff also presents sites and buildings t key developers located throughout the country.

On June 14, the Partnership was able to showcase Ferncliff to a group of NC Commerce Business and Industry developers. Half a dozen developers made a visit to Ferncliff while in the area for the North Carolina Economic Developers Association Spring Conference. Equipped with site plans, Partnership staff was able to show the developers the 262 acre property, surrounding areas and industry, discuss utilities, and answer any questions regarding the site. One key asset that was discussed is the potential for aviation and aerospace projects given adjacent proximity to the Asheville Regional Airport. Additionally, the Partnership discussed the advantages of the ad valorem tax rate in the Town of Mills River.

Landowner, Vaughan Fitzpatrick was also present during the morning visit. It was beneficial for the developers to get to talk to Vaughan and hear his vision for the park. He relayed the history of the property and presented plans for common-area green space, an on-site native landscaping nursery, and other benefits the property offers. Not only was the visit beneficial for the developers to see the site and be reminded of the assets in Henderson County, but it was advantageous for them to be able to talk with staff and Mr. Fitzpatrick about the benefits of Ferncliff for clients they are and will be working with.

H.R. 2164, “Legal Workforce Act” Draws Closer to Adoption

On June 14, 2011 House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) introduced H.R. 2164, entitled the “Legal Workforce Act.”  The proposed bill amends the existing Immigration and Nationality Act to require employers to participate in the national E-Verify system, an internet-based program used to determine worker eligibility in the United States by matching potential employees against databases maintained by the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security. According to the General Accountability Office (GAO) the E-Verify program was initiated by Congress in the late 1990s. It was voluntary and available to just a few states. In 2004, it became available to all 50 states. North Carolina now joins just 16 states that have some form of E-Verify requirements.

Even within those states that utilize E-Verify there exists a great deal of discretion surrounding employment eligibility requirements. Based on feedback from many employers, laws governing worker eligibility is subjective and varies dramatically depending on the state your business operates. In many cases employers have run into duplicative and sometimes contradictory legal requirements. The introduction of H.R. 2164 represents a distinct shift in hiring practices that attempts to provide a level of consistency to workforce eligibility verification.  To date, the bill has garnered a significant amount of bi-partisan support as well as an endorsement by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

If adopted H.R. 2164 is expected to significantly change the manner in which public and private employers verify worker eligibility. Under H.R. 2164 the existing paper-based I-9 system is replaced with an electronic work eligibility check. According to proponents of the legislation the current paper system is easily beaten by those attempting to obtain employment under false pretense and is therefore plagued by widespread document fraud. In addition to an electronic I-9 system employers will also be required to utilize E-Verify to perform a background check which will be run electronically to match pertinent information against Social Security information and, potentially, IRS data.

If enacted the bill will pre-empt state laws and allow for a more comprehensive policy regarding enforcement. Proponents of the bill expect the legislation to reduce employment verification disparities and close loopholes for those attempting to secure wrongful employment. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, H.R. 2164 goes far to protect private companies during the hiring process by ensuring employers have the tools necessary to make appropriate and legally defensible employment decision.

H.R. 2164 is scheduled to come to vote in July under an open rule that allows amendments. If the bill is adopted implementation will be phased in gradually. The bill calls for large companies to begin using the new system as early as October, 2012 then gradually incorporating smaller companies beginning in October, 2013. The law exempts companies with less than 25 employees and seasonal workers who are employed in the agriculture sector full-time for 90 days or less during the year. If adopted into law companies failing to comply with the new system will face an initial warning followed by a series of fines if they continue to refuse the system checks.

As legislation develops please look for continued updates from the Partnership.  We would like to request feedback from our members and manufacturers in Henderson County as to their thoughts on this bill and the prospective impact to doing business here.  Please email andrew@hcped.org to provide feedback on the proposed legislation.

Kiln Drying Systems Announces Plans to Double Workforce

Kiln Drying Systems & Components, Inc. (KDS) announced their expansion plans today for their facility in Henderson County. KDS is a North Carolina-based company specializing in lumber drying systems.  With new technology advances, a facility and workforce expansion is required to help KDS keep up with the demand and stay ahead of their competition.  The company will add 19 new employees, effectively doubling their workforce in North Carolina.

KDS has enjoyed doing business in Henderson County and looks forward to growth and implementation of new technology in their business model.  “In 1999, KDS began designing, fabricating, installing and commissioning large scale Lumber Drying Kilns and Green Sawdust Gasification Burner Systems.  The Green Sawdust Gasification Burners allow sawmills to get off any fossil fuels, while fulfilling their thermal energy needs to dry lumber,” said Rob Girardi, President of KDS.  “We are excited by the possibilities of our current CDK (Continuous Drying Kiln), which goes a step further by saving 30% of the thermal energy requirement to dry the lumber, thus lowering emissions and costs to our customers.”

Mike Edney, Chair of the Henderson County Board of Commissioners, remarked, “the growth of KDS is exciting, especially during this economic climate.”  He further summarized the value of the expansion as “seeing a locally-grown small business enact plans to double their workforce and extend quality employment opportunities to the citizens of Henderson County.”

KDS is located in Etowah, in Commissioner Bill O’Connor’s district.  Commissioner O’Connor was personally involved in meeting with KDS leadership and had this to say about the project.  “Kiln Drying Systems has been a part of the Etowah community and of Henderson County for 19 years.  Their high-tech approach to what most consider low tech business exemplifies the very best kind of business thinking; and their leadership in their industry is widely recognized.  We enthusiastically welcome this expansion, which is a doubling of their contribution in jobs supported to our community.  We on the County Commission are committed to supporting businesses with the technological excellence of KDS, and will do all we can to continue to provide a business friendly environment to KDS; and to finding more like them among the very best and brightest, to provide jobs for our Henderson County people.”

The company plans to create 19 jobs and invest $1.4 million during the next three years at their Etowah facility.  A One NC Fund grant of $19,700 will aid the expansion, in addition to local incentive support through an annual grant.  Customized training support for new employees will be provided by Blue Ridge Community College and the NC Community College System.  Salaries will be dependent on job function, averaging $50,500 for annual wage plus benefits, exceeding the average wage in Henderson County of $32,240.

The Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development, Inc. is a 501(c)6 organization that works to: retain and attract quality jobs; solicit new business compatible with the assets and values of Henderson County; promote Henderson County’s business image; assist expansion of existing companies; and enhance Henderson County’s overall quality of life.  For more information on the Partnership visit www.strategiclocation.com.  For more information about KDS, visit www.kdskilns.com.