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MDI $120 million expansion would be Hickory's largest development project

MDI $120 million expansion would be Hickory's largest development project

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Hickory-based Merchants Distributors, MDI, is planning to expand its facilities in Caldwell County — a project that will be the biggest economic development investment in Hickory’s history.

The expansion of the wholesale grocery distributor’s services and operations will mean a $120 million investment and 111 new jobs, according to a press release from the company.

“Caldwell County, the city of Hickory, and the state of North Carolina partnered to seal a landmark deal with MDI,” Caldwell County Economic Development Commission Executive Director Deborah Murray said in the release. “The company’s $120-million investment and implementation of leading-edge technologies will further guarantee the brightest future for the company and the region.”

The expansion is the largest economic development announcement in Hickory’s history and the second-largest for Caldwell County, Murray said. Hickory's boundaries extend into Caldwell County.

Caldwell County, Hickory and the state were competing with locations in South Carolina and Georgia for the project. Had MDI not chosen Hickory for its expansion, the current jobs may have moved as well, Murray said.

With that in mind, the governments all offered incentives to lure the project to Hickory. The state awarded MDI a Job Development Investment Grant of up to $1.34 million over 12 years, according to the release from MDI. The grant is based on tax revenue from the new jobs created.

Caldwell County offered MDI $2,000 per new job, up to 111 new jobs created, as well as $2,000 for each of the 120 jobs retained, Murray said.

The county also approved a tax incentive of a return of 75 percent of new property taxes assessed on the expansion, Murray said.

The Hickory City Council will vote on its incentives on Oct. 20, Communications Specialist Sarah Killian said.

The package will include a $500,000 infrastructure grant for the project and a tax grant of about 78 percent return of property taxes over eight years, Killian said. The percentage will start at 90 percent in the first year and decrease to 80 percent the second, then drop to 75 percent the third year and remain at 75 percent.

The average salary of the new jobs will be about $51,600, higher than Caldwell County’s average wage of about $40,000.

The release said the state and local impact of the new jobs is estimated around $5.7 million a year.

The project is expected to grow the state’s economy by $305.5 million, the release said.

MDI and its parent company Alex Lee, Inc. were both founded in Hickory. The expansion project will renovate and expand the existing facility in Hickory off U.S. 321 on Alex Lee Boulevard, including building 200,000 square feet of new space and adding new logistics technology and automation, the press release said.

“We are excited to continue to grow in Hickory where we were founded nearly 90 years ago,” said Brian George, chairman and CEO of MDI.

Hickory Mayor Hank Guess said in the release that the partnerships between the city and Caldwell County helped make the project happen.

“MDI is a local homegrown business and has always been a great corporate citizen. We are so excited that MDI has selected Hickory for this significant expansion, investment, and new job creation. We look forward to the great positive impact this project will have on our community,” Guess said.

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