Following Mebane’s approval earlier this month of an economic incentives package for a new proposed Chick-fil-A distribution center, Alamance County approved a similar incentives package at its November 18 meeting.
David Fader, Senior Director of Corporate Financial Services for Chick-fil-A, came before the County Commissioners to describe “Project Thunder,” the company’s second distribution center in the Southeast.
Fader explained that Chick-fil-A currently has 2,600 restaurants in 47 states, and is the fastest-growing chicken restaurant and the largest privately-held restaurant company in the country.
“We are recognizing that our businesses are certainly constrained when it comes to distribution. We currently are already using third-party distribution centers to support our restaurants. But we realize there’s a need to supplement our business,” Fader told the elected officials.
“You recognize that it (local Chick-fil-A restaurants are) really difficult to get into - whether that’s getting into the drive-thru, or perhaps getting into the dining room pre-pandemic. That is putting constraints on our distribution network. We’re realizing we’re having to do evening drops. We’re also recognizing we’re having to do daily drops to our restaurant to keep up with our growing business. Adding distribution to our portfolio will allow us to supplement the work that is already being performed.”
According to Alamance County Manager Bryan Hagood, the current agreement between the county and Chick-fil-A indicates that Chick-fil-A is proposing to invest $52 million in real property and personal property in the Mebane Distribution Center. Alamance County is offering an incentive of $390,000 for a five-year period to the company, paid out in equal annual installments of $78,000.
“If Chick-fil-A makes the maximum investment, and hires the number of people they are projecting, we are projecting Alamance County, after the incentives are paid, would realize a profit of $1,479,300 over five years,” Hagood explained.
This will be the second distribution center in the Chick-fil-A network. The first one opened in Cartersville, Georgia earlier this year. The proposed locale for the Distribution Center is a 76-acre patch of land along Park Center Drive. Mebane and Alamance County are equal partners in this project and series of economic incentives.
“Mebane has approved the same incentives as offered through the county. Mebane is actually offering a little extra in terms of waivers and fees (eliminated),” explained Alamance Chamber of Commerce President Mac Williams.
“Our intent is to build a 182,000 square foot facility. Our goal is to start early in 2021, and to be ready to go in early 2022,” Fader said. “That’s very aggressive because we recognize there’s a need to support operators. We anticipate 160 new full-time jobs, averaging $63,000-$64,000 per job. Essentially you’re talking about administration, warehouse staff, and truck drivers. We intend to invest $52 million into this facility - $30 million for land and building, and $22 million in equipment.”
Henry Vines of Snow Camp made a public comment during the Commissioners’ November 16 session at the Historic Old Courthouse in downtown Graham, promoting the presence of Chick-fil-A in Mebane as both a restaurant and as a Distribution Center.
“I’m not an opponent of incentives. I welcome Chick-fil-A to come here. I think they would come here regardless, because this is the best place to come. We’re sitting right in the middle of the state. We’ve got access north, south, east, and west. And why would you not come here?” Vines told the Commissioners. “Chick-fil-A has always been a real good citizen to the county, and to the people. They are always good to the kids. They’ve sponsored many of the things that we’ve done through Farm Bureau. They are good for the community. I would just wish they’d come. As we’re going through the next five years, revenue is going to be important."
“I know all the arguments about investment down the road. One of the things we’ve talked about is the $22 million of machinery. At the end of that five years, that $22 million will be reduced to $11 million because of depreciation. Chick-fil-A, I hope you’ll come with us. We welcome you here, and we need you,” Vines added.
Commissioner Bill Lashley made a motion to approve the economic incentives, and was seconded by Eddie Boswell. The motion passed with a vote of 4-1, with Tim Sutton - long opposed to economic incentives - voting against the project.
“I for one, am glad you’re here. Chick-fil-A is one of the best places I’ve been to. It’s good food,” said Commissioner Lashley.
“I, for one, would like to see Chick-fil-A, willing to come to Alamance County. I think Chick-fil-A is great,” added Commissioner Eddie Boswell.
“I’ve consistently voted against cash incentives, for years,” said Commissioner Sutton in explaining his “no” vote. “I’m not against any business. I also know good government, in my opinion. It doesn’t make sense for something to be legal that a banker would go to jail for. It just doesn’t make sense. I don’t understand why you can’t have tax abatements, but that’s against the law. But you give cash. Someone is going to have to explain that to me before they shut the lid on me. Why is it logical that you can’t abate their taxes, but you can give cash. With all due respect, welcome. Thanks for letting me have the time.”