By DAVID BORAKS
HUNTERSVILLE – Civic and business leaders joined executives from ABB Inc. for a ceremony Wednesday that signaled the start of production at ABB’s new $90 million high-voltage electrical cable plant off N.C. 115 in Huntersville. The company is hoping to supply growing demand for cable that delivers electricity from all kinds of transmission facilities – including traditional power generating stations, hydroelectric plants or even solar or wind power projects.
About 105 employees already work at the plant and the company expects to have 135 by year’s end, according to a spokesman. When the plant was announced, the company said the average wage for the new jobs would be $64,008. That’s above the county average full-time wage of $48,776.
The company got more than $2.5 million in incentives to locate here, from the state’s Job Development Investment Grant program and One North Carolina Fund, as well grants from Mecklenburg County and the Town of Huntersville.
Wednesday’s event came about two years after the Switzerland-based company announced it had picked the site for its first high-voltage cable factory outside Europe. And it marks the latest addition to a roster of energy-related businesses in the Charlotte region.
In remarks Wednesday at the new plant, North Carolina Secretary of Commerce Keith Crisco said. “These highly-skilled workers will play an important role in developing Smart Grid technology as North Carolina continues to strengthen its position as a leader in the energy sector.”
The new plant’s signature feature is a 430-foot tower for “extruding” cable – allowing newly made cable to hang, shape and cool. “The cable is hung from the top, and then carried over … that is how the cable materials cool, and gravity plays a major factor,” said Bill Rose, an ABB spokesman.
Cables to be manufactured at ABB’s Huntersville plant will carry large amounts of electric power underground, as part of the nation’s new so-called “Smart Grid.” Some of the power may come from the alternative sources, and that’s one of the reasons ABB decided to build here now. Other demand for cable may come from new, cleaner plants that are replacing outdated plants.
“We anticipate a lot of buildout of the transmission lines, and the power grid,” Mr. Rose said. “We wanted to be in the United States, close to our customers as part of our in-country-for-country strategy.”
Mr. Rose said much of the existing power generating equipment and transmission lines in the U.S. is old, and “living on borrowed time. … We have a large power grid in America today, but it’s not adequate for the power demands,” he said, especially with the growth of the internet and related businesses.
ABB chose Huntersville in part because the site was not far from its existing North Carolina operations, which already employ 1,600. Its North American headquarters are in Cary, and it has operations in Raleigh, Pinetops, Kings Mountain, Shelby, Weaverville, and Marion. The division headquarters for ABB Power Products/Power Systems is on the Centennial Campus of NC State University in Raleigh.
Enrique Santacana, president and CEO of ABB Inc., said Wednesday the company had other reasons as well, such as Charlotte Douglas Airport and nearby universities.
“The top-notch talent from local universities and proximity to a modern transportation infrastructure, quality of life for our employees and a growing community made the decision to open a facility in Huntersville an easy one,” he said in a statement provided after the event.
“By investing in the local economy, ABB is giving back to the Huntersville community that so graciously welcomed us. With the help of the N.C. Department of Commerce, Lake Norman Regional Economic Development Corporation, Charlotte Chamber of Commerce and the Town of Huntersville, ABB has been able to successfully integrate with its new home in Huntersville,” he said.
ABB’s plant is in the Commerce Station business park, off N.C. 115, a joint venture of the towns of Davidson, Huntersville, and Cornelius. The park is owned 60 percent by Huntersville, 25 percent by Cornelius and 15 percent by Davidson, and they share proportionally in expenses and any eventual revenues it generates.
Lake Norman Chamber President Bill Russell said Wednesday the project is a sign of how area towns have been able to work together, and with other officials around the region. “(It) speaks to the collaboration between the towns, economic development agencies, department of commerce and the chamber. An investment by our business community and towns over a decade ago is paying off for a diversified tax base and great jobs,” he said.
The park’s other current tenant is packaging manufacturer Pactiv, which has about 350 employees in the park.
April 5, 2011, “ABB formally breaks ground for Huntersville plant”
Sept. 9, 2010, “Project Fly lands: ABB to build $90m plant, bring 100 jobs”