Johnston gives $1 million incentive to Grifols

pseligson@newsobserver.comJune 9, 2014 

Johnston County is offering another economic-development incentive, this time to an existing industry.

Last week, the Johnston County Board of Commissioners pledged $1.08 million in property-tax rebates to Grifols, which is planning an expansion of its plant near Clayton. The pharmaceutical company will receive the rebate over seven years but only if it follows through on the expansion.

The company, which makes products derived from blood plasma, is considering two projects in Clayton.

One is a warehouse with a $7.5 million price tag. As the company increases the number of plasma-donation centers in North America, it is looking for space to store those donations.

The second project is a $22.5 million administrative building that would bring with it about 15 jobs, said Tim Ham, who manages facilities for Grifols.

The company could choose other locations for the warehouse and administrative building; the company has plants across North America. The incentives will make Johnston a more competitive option, Ham said.

If Grifols chooses Johnston, the two new buildings would be part of a $90 million spending plan at the Clayton plant; the company has already spent about $60 million on new buildings there. The proposed administrative building would help replace 37 trailers the company uses to house administrative staff, Ham said.

“They’ve made tremendous investment in Johnston County, and we hope to continue that,” said Chris Johnson, the county’s economic-development director, said of Grifols.

Medical transport

Johnston County might open up non-emergency medical transport to multiple providers.

Ambulances based at the county’s many EMS stations respond to 911 calls. But many Johnstonians need non-emergency medical transport – for instance, a ride from home to a dialysis center. Currently, just one company – Johnston Ambulance Service – has the county’s blessing to offer that service. (JAS bills the patient directly.)

Last week, commissioners voted to allow more than one company to provide the service. For years, JAS has been the lone provider and has done a good job, county officials say. But the county has heard some complaints – including from Johnston Health – that people can call only JAS for the service. Johnston Health transports many patients between its Clayton and Smithfield hospitals.

The county will now accept applications from other companies. Rudy Baker, chairman of the emergency services advisory committee, said this doesn’t commit the county to change. The advisory committee could reject all of the applicants and stick with JAS.

“I think it would be wise for us to at least give the advisory board the ability to talk to other providers,” said Commissioner DeVan Barbour.

Jeremy Hill, chief operating officer of JAS, asked commissioners to not open up non-emergency transport to other companies. He said that would only confuse patients, who wouldn’t know who to call. Also, JAS has proven that it’s accountable and reputable, he said.

Other business

Commissioners allowed the Board of Education to divert $700,000 from school operations to fixing ailing school buildings.

The school system faced three unexpected repairs this year. The heating and cooling system at Clayton Middle School broke down, the foundation under the cafeteria and kitchen at South Johnston High School has started sinking, and a retaining wall at the facility services building in Smithfield collapsed, damaging some nearby vehicles.

Commissioner Allen Mims asked how the school system could afford to divert $700,000 from school operations. Superintendent Ed Croom said the schools had an unexpected $650,000 in bail-bond forfeitures.

Finally last week, commissioners refinanced some of its public utilities debt, which could save about $12 million.

Seligson: 919-836-5768

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