Correction: The Jefferson Post incorrectly described the incentive package that Ashe County could offer to American Emergency Vehicles on Jan. 19. The county is considering offering AEV $108,000, to help the company with it’s nearly $4 million expansion project in Jefferson. We regret the error.
JEFFERSON —An economic development incentive of $108,000 from the county could help push American Emergency Vehicles closer to finishing renovations to the old Gates facility in Jefferson and provide 60 full-time positions for Ashe County.
That’s according to Cathy Barr, Director of Economic Development, who says that the funds for the incentive will come directly from the county’s economic development fund and accompany the nearly $4 million that has already been invested by AEV to renovate the old Gates facility.
Ashe County Commissioners will consider granting AEV the incentive following a public hearing on Jan. 19.
Since the 1990s, AEV has grown from less than 50 employees to more than 400 today, a number that will continue to grow with the company’s plans to expand into the second facility.
Barr says AEV will have until 2017 to hire 60 total employees per the incentive agreement.
According to Barr, the old Gates facility features 200,000-square feet of space that doesn’t quite match up to what AEV needs but an economic development incentive could help them get it up to their standards by the end of 2016.
AEV also scored major help from the state earlier this year in the form of a $500,000 building reuse grant through the Rural Infrastructure Authority of the North Carolina Department of Commerce. The program helps governments partner with companies to renovate vacant buildings to create new, full-time jobs.
The 60 Jobs
According to Greg Warmuth, AEV Vice President of Finance, the company plans to transition 60 of their current temporary employees to permanent, full-time positions.
“These are people who have been through training, they’ve been through the educational process and they’ve learned their jobs and therefore we consider them good perspective long term employees,” Warmuth said. “So, we are going to convert them to regular full time employees complete with benefits, holidays and everything that goes along with that.”
Warmuth says that out of more than a dozen nationwide manufacturing divisions of AEV’s parent company, REV Group, AEV has the lowest employee turnover and the best safety record and productivity levels — all factors to why they will be able to transition those employees.
“When they look at AEV and you look at the fact that we have the Gates building available to us, it presents a very real opportunity for perspective growth and expansion,” Warmuth said.
But according to Barr, AEV won’t be the only one to benefit from the incentive.
“One of the things that happens as a result of anytime they grow and add jobs, they also help the economy out as far as local vendors, as far as what they spend with BREMCO, Parker Tie, Skyline, all the dealerships,” Barr said. “If they grow, it actually benefits and creates more jobs because they work with those sub contractors and local vendors.”
According to Warmuth, AEV is also looking into additional opportunities for expansion in areas of the company which would require the hiring of even more employees in the future.
“There are opportunities we are looking at and trying to pursue that would bring more jobs to the area,” Warmuth said. “There is a lot of opportunity here. There is a lot here that we can pursue and we are working very hard to do that because we believe that we can handle a lot more and we would like to see more jobs come to this county.”
Warmuth says one area the company is looking into expanding is vehicle refurbishment stating that the need has grown significantly in the last five years.
“As a policy, we have always been willing to take on refurbishment of vehicles that we originally built but we tended to stay away from vehicles built by our competitors and the primary reason for that is because there are significant differences in the engineering and design of those vehicles,” Warmuth said. “But as we have developed greater technical expertise and greater awareness and have more resources available to us about vehicles built by our competitors, it’s become a more viable alternative for us.”
In the eyes of the Community
According to Barr, AEV continues to be a good corporate citizen to Ashe County as they regularly give money to local charities and organizations.
AEV recently awarded $37,000 to a total of 16 organizations in Ashe County just this past December. The money came from AEV employees who donated $1 or more each week from their own paychecks to go towards the donations.
This year, 70 percent of AEV employees contributed $18,000 which was then matched by the company to bring the total to $37,000.
According to Warmuth, Ashe County has been more than just accommodating to AEV.
“The mere fact that they are even considering additional economic incentives speaks volumes about their willingness to be supportive of business that’s here in the community and we appreciate that,” Warmuth said. “We appreciate the people that are here and the support that we get from the county government and other county agencies. We recognize that there is a lot to be gained when we work together and I think that feeling is very mutual.”
Hannah Myers can be reached at 336-846-7164 or on Twitter @cmedia_hmyers