P&G’s big deal

It takes awhile for this week’s announcement to sink in that consumer product giant Procter & Gamble is going to build a $500 million manufacturing facility in Berkeley County.

Not Ohio or Alabama or Tennessee or North Carolina, but West Virginia.

Skeptics might wonder if there was some soul-selling going on by Governor Tomblin, Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette or both.

If this had come down to a bidding war, West Virginia couldn’t have been in the running. One competing state reportedly offered 1,000 acres… free. P&G bought the Berkeley County land.

Consider that Tennessee landed a $600 million Volkswagen plant last year, but had to put up $165.8 million in incentives and $12 million to train workers. Alabama had to come up with $80 million in incentives for a $142 million Polaris ATV factory.

In fact, the deal put forward by West Virginia to attract the country’s second largest consumer products company (after Apple) is stunningly modest.

According to the state Commerce Department, the state put up $8.5 million for preparation and infrastructure at the 450-acre Tabler Station Business Park and no special tax incentives other than those already available.

Burdette says it did help that West Virginia’s corporate net income tax has been reduced from 8.5 percent to 6.5 percent over the last several years, and that the state has eliminated the anti-business franchise tax.

Also, Burdette says, Procter & Gamble found it could deal directly with our state’s decision makers. “I get the impression that didn’t happen everywhere and that they were impressed that a state like West Virginia could actually be more nimble, more responsive,” he said on Talkline Wednesday. “This is a big deal for them.”

Procter & Gamble said West Virginia also had the location going for it. The site is along the I-81 corridor in the Mid-Atlantic region, putting it within a one-day transit of 80 percent of the company’s retail customers and consumers in the eastern U.S.

Notably, West Virginia officials are not trying to temper expectations, as they have done with the proposed ethane cracker plant in Parkersburg. “We have a high confidence level that this project will end up being maybe even substantially bigger than what’s being announced,” Burdette said.

That could mean more than 700 permanent jobs, a building larger than one-million square feet and an investment of more than $500 million.

Burdette expects even more investment from downstream businesses. He’s already talking with several companies that expect to provide supplies to the P&G facility that are interested in locating nearby.

Also, having a company with the stature of Procter & Gamble coming to West Virginia provides a large, flashing business billboard that may help attract other industry leaders who think, “If West Virginia is good enough for P&G, then it’s good enough for us.”

And finally, consider this: Of the seven billion people on this planet, five billion use product brands that come from P&G.

And now West Virginia is becoming an important partner with P&G.

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