by Julie Tisdale
City & County Policy Analyst
Charlotte’s latest corporate welfare scheme, approved by the city council yesterday, is $3.3 million for Frito-Lay to expand a plant. $3.3 million for an expansion that will create 30-35 jobs over the next three years. That’s about $100,000 per job — jobs that are expected to pay an average of $50,000 per year.
And this is how the plan will work. Charlotte will contribute $1.2 million and Mecklenburg will contribute $2.1 million over the next five years to refund 90% of Frito-Lay’s property taxes. That is, assuming the county approves the deal when they vote next month.
But here’s the bit that I find most ridiculous about the whole story. According to WBTV, Frito-Lay is planning to invest $74 million in the plant, but “Frito-Lay has told the city that the plant’s expansion is contingent on receiving the tax incentives.” Really?! You’re prepared to invest $74 million, but that last $3.3 million’s going to break you? I don’t buy it.
I don’t doubt that Frito-Lay would like the tax break. I’d certainly like someone to refund 90% of my property taxes. And I don’t doubt that every little bit helps (which is what $3.3 million is in this context). But the idea that a company that’s already operating a plant, employing 563 workers, and planning to invest $74 million in expansion absolutely has to have an additional $3.3 million in tax breaks from the city in order to go ahead with that growth just doesn’t seem plausible.
Mecklenburg County should vote this down and kill the plan next month. Frito-Lay will continue to operate, with or without the funds. And that money could be used to improve roads, or invest in schools, or give a tax break to hard-working parents who are trying to provide for themselves and their children. There are lots of good things that the city and county could do with $3.3 million. A hefty tax break for Frito-Lay is not the right way to go.