Rocky Mount, N.C. — Golden LEAF said Thursday that the economic development group's board has set aside $50 million to help attract an automobile manufacturer to North Carolina.
“The state is readying itself to win and host this type of manufacturing industry,” Chairman Johnathan Rhyne said in a statement. “An automobile manufacturer and its suppliers can create thousands of jobs and serve as a catalyst for long-term economic advancement.”
The Financial Times of London reported last month that Volvo was looking at North Carolina and other Southeast states for a U.S. manufacturing plant.
Dan Gerlach, president of the foundation, said the $50 million isn't tied to a specific site or company and could be used to pay for infrastructure improvement or worker training.
"The foundation generally does not make a single grant of this magnitude but recognizes the transformative potential of attracting this industry," Gerlach said in a statement, noting that Golden LEAF usually doles out about $34 million in grants in any year.
The only grant the foundation has awarded that would be larger than the $50 million for a car plant was the $100 million given to the Golbal TransPark in Kinston in 2008 to attract Spirit Aerosystems, Gerlach said.
Gov. Pat McCrory has repeatedly pressed lawmakers – most recently in his State of the State address Wednesday night – for more incentives to attract businesses to North Carolina. He has said his administration is drafting a plan dubbed "NC Competes" to encourage large-scale manufacturing, attract new investment and fund long-term infrastructure projects.
Golden LEAF was created in 1999 to use some of the money North Carolina receives every year from cigarette manufacturers under a nationwide litigation settlement to boost economic development in rural area that have traditionally been dependent on tobacco farming and sales. To date, it has awarded 1,290 grants totaling more than $566 million.
Lawmakers two years ago began diverting the annual payment to Golden LEAF to the state's general fund, and Gerlach said the losses to the foundation amount to $67 million so far. Still, the foundation has more than $800 million in its accounts.