Ray Gora / Lincoln Times-News
The initial announcement was met with fanfare and a visit from then-Governor Beverly Perdue.
But, at least for the time being, the planned expansion and construction of a large manufacturing, distribution and research and development center by Denver Global Products, acquired by China-based RATO in 2012, is on hold after several top-level executives walked out and dozens of employees were reportedly laid off.
Trouble began brewing in April when Denver Global’s Raven Hybrid Mower was pulled from the shelves at Lowe’s hardware stores as a result of quality issues. An article on the Consumer Reports website cites electrical issues, uneven mowing and a unit that Denver Global discovered would spin its blades when it wasn’t supposed to as just three of the reasons that Lowe’s, the exclusive dealer of the Raven, quit selling the product.
The Lincoln County Board of Commissioners approved a grants and incentives package in March worth over $800,000 that was initially designed to bring the manufacturing site to Lincoln County. Denver Global planned to begin construction on a 109-acre site, including a 400,000 square-foot facility, near the Airlie Business Park by the end of July.
The incentives package included water and sewer infrastructure improvements and a waiver of water and sewer capacity development fees.
“Developments and improvements to the site will not move forward until the project is ready to go,” Lincoln Economic Development Association Executive Director Cliff Brumfield said, also noting that no public monies have yet been spent on the site. “LEDA has been in close contact with company leaders and we’re aware of some (personnel) changes. There are still plans to build on the site but the timing has to be worked out.”
The deal between the county and RATO required the creation of 350 jobs over the next two years and a $30 million investment into the construction of the new facility.