North Carolina Economic Development Guide

2015

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2007 and Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple Inc. to the Catawba County town of Maiden in 2009. T5's Wangenheim agrees: "Duke was so critical to the entire process," providing infrastructure, attractive pricing and marketing support for the Kings Mountain park. "Our customers become their customers." In the early 2000s, Duke's surplus generation increased as more North Carolina textile and furniture factories closed when many manufacturers moved production overseas. At the same time, the Internet was exploding. That created demand for power-hungry data storage, so Duke reached out to data-center companies and their site selectors. "We were the frst utility to actively, aggres- sively pursue these guys," Geib says. "Once we had a couple of successes, we were a known quantity." The state and its communities also beneft from big names such as Apple and Disney, which help attract more companies. He calls it "the panache factor." The attraction between rural North Carolina and data centers isn't always mutual. They have been called modest job generators unworthy of the millions of dollars in state and local incentives they receive. Bukowski says that's unfair. "If you look at the job fgures, these companies have all [exceeded initial job projections]." In 2009, for example, Apple said its Maiden data center would generate 50 jobs. But by mid- 2014, 140 full-time employees and about 140 full-time contractors were working there. Wipro has 20, Disney 49 and AT&T 100 in Kings Mountain. "The knock on data centers is that they don't bring in a lot of jobs," T5's Wangenheim says. "But these are good jobs that pay above-average salaries." An InformationWeek magazine survey found average annual pay for data-center technology workers in the Southeast was $77,000 in 2012. The average Cleveland County wage was slightly more than $34,000 that year, according to the Department of Commerce. "Employees at the Kings Mountain data center have a mix of managerial, professional, informa- tion-technology and vocational skills," AT&T's Gelinas says. "This includes individuals with experience in network design, IT systems architecture and property management." Most data-center employees have associate or bachelor's degrees in engineer- ing, IT or computer science. T5 found some of its Kings Mountain staff 40 minutes up the highway. "Charlotte is a great base for IT workers," Wangenheim says. And Kings Mountain's lower cost of living — the property tax rate is 72 cents per $100 valuation in Cleveland County, compared with 81.6 cents in Mecklen- burg County, home to Charlotte — makes relocation pitches easier.

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