Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law Monday House Bill 334, which appropriates $106.75 million in state Job Development Investment Grant funds for fiscal 2021-22 to “a high-yield project for an airplane manufacturer” at Piedmont Triad International Airport.

Cooper signed the law without comment.

The identity of the manufacturer could be made public as early as Wednesday.

The N.C. Commerce Department’s Economic Investment committee is required to approve all Job Development Investment Grant appropriations.

The committee is scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. Wednesday to “consider one or more economic development proposals.” Committee meetings typically are timed to coincide with local government economic-development efforts.

Toyota megasite project

During Monday’s committee meeting, members unanimously approved JDIG funds included in the 2021-22 state budget that are worth up to $320 million in performance-based incentives for an economic project at the Greensboro-Randolph County megasite near Liberty.

The commission confirmed the rumored Toyota-Panasonic joint venture for battery manufacturing for electronic vehicles, initially for hybrid vehicles.

The joint venture, according to the commission, represents a $1.27 billion capital investment by the end of December 2026, and the creation of at least 1,750 workers at the megasite between 2025 and 2029.

The average annual wage was estimated at $62,234. The work force for the joint venture could include a third-party component of up to 15%.

A second phase for the joint venture could involve an additional 3,875 jobs and an additional $3 billion in capital investments.

State Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said in a statement that the project presents the hard work of the state legislature “to transform North Carolina into a jobs-friendly state with low taxes, reasonable regulations and a world-class education system.”

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“As a result, companies big and small are creating jobs here, continuing a decade of growth.”

House speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said the project is a sign that as “North Carolina continues to grow, Toyota’s investment is a sign that we are doing the right things to attract people and businesses to our thriving state.”

PTI’s Project Thunderbird

According to Commerce, a high-yield project requires a company to pledge to create at least 1,750 jobs and spend at least $500 million on capital investments. The average annual wage is estimated at roughly $60,000.

The project has been identified as “Project Thunderbird” by Reps. Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth, and Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford.

PTI has a nearly 1,000-acre aerospace site available, one of four megasites being marketed by Piedmont Triad Partnership and Carolina Core. Combined, the sites come to 7,200 acres along the U.S. 421 corridor to Fayetteville.

PTI already has a major headquarters and production presence with HondaJet.

Both megasite projects qualifies for JDIG grant reimbursing up to 90% of the new personal income withholdings from employees for a period up to 20 years.

‘A game-changer’

Lambeth said last week the potential airport project will be “a game changer for this area and PTI. I am proud to be part of supporting this project in our region.”

Lambeth said that ordinarily the JDIG funding appropriation “would have been in the state budget.”

“But, the dynamics of this is evolving very fast and there should be a major announcement this week or certainly soon.”

Rep. Jon Hardister, R-Guilford, and House majority whip, said last week that “having such a package enacted into law, via the state budget, demonstrates our state’s commitment to economic development and makes the incentives trigger-ready if a large, qualified investor makes a commitment.”

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Rep. Lee Zachary, R-Yadkin who also represents western Forsyth, said the PTI project “appeared to be quick, but it has been being discussed at higher levels and just kept quiet.”

“We toured the large site that already had a bridge for the road, but no road. That was 18 months or more ago on a cold day in February.”

Zachary said the large bipartisan support for the PTI project represents what he called a “cooperative” spirit afoot in Raleigh.”

“This was an opportunity to help with something outside of Wake and Mecklenburg. Those instances are rare.”

The Piedmont Triad Airport Authority said in a statement Nov. 30 that it “cannot discuss specifics of ongoing economic development projects.”

“The airport has attracted the interest of a number of aerospace companies, which the local economic development community is actively pursuing.

“The authority greatly appreciates the strong support it has received from the state legislature and the governor’s office, and others, to attract aerospace jobs to the state and region.”

PTI project funding gets final approval from Gov. Roy Cooper. Toyota confirms plans for battery plant at Guilford/Randolph megasite

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