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AP: Brunswick Co. tire plant deal may enrich NC political donors

READ MORE: AP: Brunswick Co. tire plant deal may enrich NC political donors
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BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) -- Gov. Bev Perdue's involvement with a plan to entice a major corporation to our area may have to do with more than just bringing jobs to the region. It's been reported that owners of the site include some of her campaign donors.

According to the Associated Press (see AP story below), five men who have ownership stake in the proposed site for a new tire plant have also donated more than $50,000 to Perdue's campaign.

Project Soccer is still being kicked around here in North Carolina. It's the code name for what is rumored to be an incentives plan that may bring Continental Tire's newest manufacturing plant to the Brunswick-Columbus County line.

It is believed that Continental Tire is considering locations in North Carolina, South Carolina and Louisiana for the plant that would bring 1,400 jobs to wherever it lands.

The company remains tight-lipped about its decision.

"We hope to have a decision before the end of the year, but at this point, there's nothing I can add in terms of the candidates and states we're looking at or the locations," Continental Tire spokeswoman Kathryn Blackwell said.

The Associated Press investigated the governor's ties to the land. It looks like if Project Soccer succeeds, that will mean some of Perdue's campaign donors would nearly double the investment they made on the land a few years ago.

Brunswick County Economic Development Commission Director Jim Bradshaw did not want to speak on camera about the allegations, because he does not want to jeopardize the decision that he says is so close to being made. He did say, however, that Gov. Perdue has not been part of the process at all and only got involved when Brunswick County asked her to.

Bradshaw says there has been absolutely no foul play and called the allegations ridiculous. He said the main focus is bringing jobs to our area, and he does not want these claims to taint anything.

Blackwell declined to say how these investigations could affect the company's decision.

"I know nothing about the situation or the exact location and any of the ownership speculation that has been going on," she said. "Because we're still in the decision-making process, I don't think it is appropriate to comment on any of that speculation."

Gov. Perdue's press secretary said she is not involved in the decision, and all discussions have been between the company and Brunswick County directly.

Reports have surfaced today that Continental Tire is more likely to build across the border in Sumter County, SC. Bradshaw is hopeful that Brunswick County is still in the running.

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By MICHAEL BIESECKER and GARY D. ROBERTSON - Associated Press

RALEIGH, NC -- A state lawmaker and a group of Democratic political donors with ties to Gov. Beverly Perdue are poised to sell land in Brunswick County at a handsome profit for a tire plant that's being lured with $100 million in state and local incentives, according to public records reviewed by The Associated Press.

As North Carolina's chief executive, the governor is a key decision maker in large incentives deals involving state money. She also helps appoint the board members of a foundation that's been asked to provide part of the tire plant's package. Perdue's campaign has received more than $52,000 from five men with an ownership stake in the Brunswick County industrial park proposed for the new facility.

The governor's son, Garrett Perdue, is also a lawyer and site-selection consultant for an influential law firm that a county official said was advising the tire company. The firm, Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, does not disclose which projects the younger Perdue works on, citing attorney-client privilege.

Perdue's spokesman stressed Thursday that the company seeking the incentives, not the governor's aides, chose the site. The North Carolina site is competing with sites in two other states.

"Gov. Perdue is focused on bringing 1,300 jobs to North Carolina," said Mark Johnson, Perdue's spokesman. "She doesn't care where in the state the plant goes, who owns the land or who the company hires as its lawyer. She just wants the jobs."

The proposed location, the Mid-Atlantic Logistics Center, is owned by a group of investors that includes state Sen. Michael P. Walters, a Democrat from Proctorville.

A development company owned by David T. Stephenson III, a Lumberton tobacco farmer, is also listed as having a stake in the center. Stephenson is a major Democratic contributor appointed to the board of Golden LEAF, a foundation created by the state legislature to dole out hundreds of millions of dollars paid by cigarette manufacturers through a legal settlement.

Brunswick County officials have asked Golden LEAF for a grant to help fund an incentives package for the plant, said the county's top economic development official.

The deal is expected to include tax breaks, infrastructure improvements, cash grants and a forgivable loan. It's not clear how much money the foundation might put in. The new facility, code named by economic development officials as "Project Soccer," has been billed as creating up to 1,500 new jobs.

A confidential document outlining the terms of the proposed deal reviewed by The Associated Press indicated that money from the incentives package would be used to buy a large portion of the 1,129 acre site for the tire plant at a price of $6,000 an acre.

Records show the investors bought the site in 2007 for $4.3 million, or about $3,800 an acre.

Stephenson, a tobacco farmer and investor, did not return a message seeking comment Thursday.

Golden LEAF president Dan Gerlach wouldn't say whether the foundation is involved in Project Soccer. But Gerlach said Stephenson came to him at a board meeting months ago and said he may have a conflict of interest if the foundation were to provide a grant for the project.

Gerlach said Stephenson asked that he not be provided any materials provided to the foundation related to Project Soccer because of his potential financial interest in the deal.

Gerlach said Stephenson has gone beyond the foundation's conflict of interest policy by alerting the foundation to potential problems well before they could have reached the board. A board member isn't required to put the potential conflict in writing, but Gerlach said he made a note affirming Stephenson's request.

State lawmakers, who would have to approve the incentives package, have been briefed on the possibility of a special legislative session to be held in the coming weeks to vote on it.

Walters filed a letter with the Senate clerk on Aug. 25 recusing himself from any deliberations on the deal "to avoid any potential conflict of interests or the appearance of impropriety."

He declined to comment further Thursday.

"I've recused myself from that project and that's all I have to say," Walters said.

Democratic Rep. Dewey Hill, who said he's spoken to Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco about Project Soccer, described the company seeking the incentives deal as a "tire manufacturer and distribution company from Germany." Hill's district includes part of Brunswick County.

The German company Continental Tire is in the process of selecting a site for a new plant in the Southeast, spokeswoman Kathryn Blackwell said Thursday, but she wouldn't say whether the company was looking at North Carolina.

"We have not made a decision, though one is coming in the near future," Blackwell said.

In addition to Crisco, Womble Carlyle lobbyist Laura DeVivo has been talking with key lawmakers. A legislator described a meeting in which DeVivo and other Womble lobbyists worked with state officials to gain support for the proposed incentives package. The legislator asked not to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the negotiations.

DeVivo works on Womble's government affairs team, which also includes Perdue's son. In an interview last year, Garrett Perdue described his role with the firm as identifying companies seeking to relocate to the state and helping them find sites to meet their needs.

Two attorneys who lead the firm's government affairs team, former Democratic Gov. Jim Hunt and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Burley Mitchell, did not return messages seeking comment.

Gov. Perdue has said she doesn't talk to her son about which companies he works for, though she has recused herself from making decisions in at least two economic incentives projects in recent years after her aides became concerned he was working on behalf of the companies involved.

Johnson, the governor's spokesman, said he didn't know whether Womble Carlyle played any role in advising the tire company in considering the proposed Project Soccer site.

Jim Bradshaw, director of Brunswick County Economic Development Commission, said he was the one who first recommended the Mid-Atlantic site for Project Soccer last winter. He said the land was one of 53 sites originally under consideration. That list has now been whittled down to three: the Mid-Atlantic land and sites in South Carolina and Louisiana.

Bradshaw said some pieces of North Carolina's proposed package are already in place. The state Department of Transportation has pledged $150,000 to extend a rail spur to the site and the state-supported N.C. Rural Center has awarded the county about $1.5 million toward water and sewer installation.

He said Gov. Perdue did not personally become involved in the negotiations until after the Mid-Atlantic site was in the running. He said August was the first contact he had with anyone from Womble Carlyle about the county's proposed contributions to the incentives package. He declined to identify the person he spoke to.

Bradshaw also said he had no idea the owners of the proposed Project Soccer site have been frequent contributors to the Democratic Party or Gov. Perdue.

Campaign finance records show Stephenson and members of his family have donated more than $85,000 to Democratic candidates over the last 20 years, including $14,000 to Perdue since 2004. Records show $8,000 in contributions to former Senate President Pro Tempore Marc Basnight, the Manteo Democrat who appointed Stephenson to the Golden LEAF board.

Walters and his wife have donated more than $34,000 to elected Democrats other than himself, including $14,000 to Perdue.

William E. Musselwhite, a Lumberton lawyer who owns a share of the land, has given more than $22,000 to state Democrats, including $14,500 to Perdue.

Dennis T. Worley, a Tabor City attorney and another of the owners, has given more than $28,000 to Democrats, including $7,700 to Perdue.

Kyle A. Cox, another Tabor City lawyer and part property owner, gave more than $11,000 to Democrats, including $2,000 to Perdue.

Bradshaw, the economic developer, said he doesn't care who owns the land.

"I don't know who these people are," Bradshaw said. "I don't know who contributes to who. I just want to bring these jobs to Brunswick County."

Michael Biesecker reported from Atlanta and can be reached at mbiesecker@ap.org or twitter.com/

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By No Means Is This Over

review the early information. The German headquarters indicated they hoped to make an announcement by the end of the third quarter, 2011; that was this past Friday. Now they refer to a decision by year's end.

This is business; and they're going to go for all they can squeeze out of the state which is chosen.

From articles reviewed, it appears a portion of the incentive is $45 million in loans which will be forgiven at a rate of $3 million per year for 15 years. So if they stay for 15 years, which given the capital investment required for this type of facility is very likely, they get the $45 million at no charge.

Another incentive involves $1,900 in tax credits for every new employee hired; I believe those are the quoted numbers.

On the other hand, before the first tire is created, this project will inject millions into the area just from the construction of the production plant and supporting facilities.

Funny that Bev would take off for Asia rather than trek to Germany and use her powers of persuasion to bring home the bacon. Maybe she's planning a second foriegn junket for the fall.

Location, location

I think they should have purchased the piece of property that Terex Crane is fixing to close down in October located in Wilmington. Huge assembly buildings already in place for that type of business, rail location connected to the property and located just across the road from a major shipping terminal with enough land to expand in the future. But what do I know I only use common sense and there is no gain in it for me. Oh I forgot we've been to distracted with all the fighting going on in our local government for them to actually go their jobs.

I don't think the Terex site

is large enough. One report had the main building at 1 million square feet.

Tabor City Rules & Shady Connections

This is political payola for Democratic political cronies who are trying to fleece the taxpayers and get public money to line their pockets. The Tabor City connections smell and look shady - like Senator RC Soles. Folks at the Todd House told me that the investors/owners, Senator Michael Walters and Dennis Worley, are related (brothers-in-law); that Worley's Tabor City law partner, Richard Wright, is being sued by the Federal Government for over 33 million for mismanagement of a local bank and other violations of law; that Worley and Senator RC Soles are neighbors, that he supported Soles with money/contributions, and that Soles got Worley several plum appointments to several boards in return; and that another investor, Kyle Cox, is Senator RC Soles' nephew. The Cox/Worley relationship has spilled over and tainted things and raised lots of questions around the courthouse, magistrate’s office, and register of deeds. Stephenson and Musslewhite are Democratic moneymen with ties to Congressman McIntyre. This group supported Senator Bill Rabon in Columbus County, who is now trying to use public money to help his cronies while also undercutting the industrial park on the other side of US 74. Just a coincidence? This is another example of things that look and smell crooked.

Shady must be your name the

Shady must be your name the way you stated facts and figures that are incorrect. You must be getting a free ride and don't need a job. These people are trying to get much needed jobs. In case Shady hasn't noticed umemployed in Columbus and N.C. is at an all-time high. If you got a better idea for jobs why don't you post that on WWAY.

Sorry. There's enough conflict of interest here....

...to tar and feather everyone involved with this project. Continental would be well advised to seek another location. If we can't attract jobs without accepting corruption, I'd rather see us pass on the jobs.

RC

SOLES FOR SENATE 2012

Burning Rubber

This stinks of burning rubber and another example of why Chicken Gov has got to go. Demotards and enriching their pockets is just regular ole good boy politics. Hey, lets convince the citizens we are trying to bring in some jobs, but in reality we will get rich. Man I cannot wait to 2012!

What about StopTire.org?

I don't think that a tire plant qualifies as one of those clean green industries they are demanding.

They could head

out to Wilson and see the impact of a tire facility on the economy and environment.

But it's not a done deal yet.

Apparently the SC site has better port access as well as railroad infrastructure in place.

So while SC may be matching the dollars, they could be ahead as they will not have to lay 2 dozen miles of rail track an their port is both superior in ability and facilities as well as closer to the Ocean.

If this one falls through, after last year's trip to Europe for all of her relationship building, that would be strike 2 when one counts the failure to bring in the Miley Cyrus production.

Now, if Ironman does not appear as promised, despite upwards of $20 million in incentives, that would be strike 3.

On the other hand, her first Asian trip yielded nothing; so maybe we are looking at strike 4 if this and Ironman do not come to fruition.

One would think she would journey to Germany, rather than Asia, to use her personal influence and relationships to bring the bacon home to NC. But, that would be too logical.

Or perhaps she has insider information which confirms the project is headed to SC. IN which case, she may be trying to avoid this like Brer Rabbit avoids the Tar Baby.

So instead, Road Trip 2 heading to Asia.

Would that mean she could be gone, as in big business when one repeatedly fails, before November, 2012?

How about www.sendsmileypacking.net

Perdu's get rich scheme

Thanks WWAY for the information on the tire plant. We'd never hear of this in the NY Times (AKA the Star-News).

Looks like S.C. is getting the plant....

No need to worry aboout any favortism..... it looks as if S.C. is getting the plant.

http://www.starnewsonline.com/article/20110930/WIRE/110939985/1177?Title...

What if the company does

What if the company does locate in Brunswick County, then folds after a few years? We would never get our money back. It will take a long time to do so even if they stayed. The odor of a rat is already eminating from this proposal.

That's a pretty good

rate of return on real estate.

They bought at the peak of the market; values dropped in 2008 & 2009; and they'll achieve about a 58% profit on the land.

NC certainly needs the jobs. $100,000,000 is a pretty stiff price to pay. And unclear is whether the support from the Gold Leaf Foundation is included within that number. Plus a portion of it is in the form of a forgiveable loan.

Time will tell. Odd that she would plan her Asian junket just as this is coming to fruition and the legislature might need to return to special session to garner approval. One would think she might stick around to ensure this goes through.

And lest we forget, they are offering up to $20,000,000 in incentives for the Ironman movie.

They must think money grows on trees just as all of the entitlement takers believe.

They'll still have to get this one approved by the Legislature due to its size. May not be a done deal quite yet.

Too bad South Carolina

Too bad South Carolina already has a shoe in the deal, which in all probability the tire plant will land there. Yes, North Carolina needs the jobs, however it seems that South Carolina has got its act together, politically speaking. Also, the access to Charleston port system is probably a bonus, their port makes the "port of wilmington" look like a boat slip. I am sure the news of a corrupt police force in leland, and the fiasco thats going on in Tabor City really makes Brunswick county the top of their list. The corruption in this state is unbelievable

Whoa Hoss. What u draggin

Whoa Hoss. What u draggin Tabor City in this drama for? We're at least 40+ miles away.

if you check the map

it appears a portion of the acreage is in Columbus County.

Thus you have the site tainted by Tabor City's ongoing soap opera, "All My Boys" with Uncle RC in the recurring role of Daddy RC.

Add to that the laughable situation in Leland and the District Attorney's reluctance to take action.

And you could have the difference between Berkley County in SC and here in NC.

Should that come out as a reason, I wonder of the county citizens would have cause to bring action against the DA over his concerns of conflicting interests?

SURF

YOU LEFT OUT FROG, WHATS WRONG ?

He's one of the boys

referred to in the recurring soap opera. But he is on hiatus at a state facility for the next few months. But maybe that offers some reality show opportunities for out of Tabor City filming.