The Furniture City offered Dell an "attractive" incentives package and a prime piece of land, but in the end topography won out, High Point Mayor Becky Smothers said Thursday.

A day after Dell announced it was building a $100 million desktop computer assembly plant on 189 acres in Winston-Salem, High Point officials disclosed - for the first time - that they had offered the computer maker more than $8.8 million in up-front incentives, including $5 million worth of land.That would have been combined with Guilford County's $7.1 million incentives package. In addition, the computer maker - which would have been required to buy its electricity from High Point rather than Duke Power - would have been given $3 million in utility rate savings, along with $1.4 million in infrastructure improvements.

While not the smallest package on the table, High Point's incentives proposal is dwarfed by Winston-Salem and Forsyth County's combined incentives of $30 million in cash and services, plus $7 million in land.

But Smothers doesn't think it was the different incentives that was the deciding factor for Dell. "Why didn't we get it?" she asked. "I don't think it's the incentives. This was about topography and timetable."

High Point was offering Dell 100 acres, worth about $5.5 million, on the west side of N.C. 68 at the intersection of Clinard Farm Road, across from the Piedmont Centre office park. It offered the easiest access to the airport and freeways among all the sites being considered in the Triad, Smothers noted.

Winston-Salem's site at Alliance Science and Technology Park, however, was more flat . That allows Dell to get onto the site a few weeks sooner, which fits into the company's aggressive timetable of having the factory up and running by the end of next year. The Winston-Salem site is only five miles away from High Point's city limits, noted Loren Hill, president of the High Point Economic Development Corp.

"The impact of this goes beyond Winston-Salem," Hill said Thursday. It won't be difficult for High Point residents to commute to jobs at Dell's new plant. In addition, High Point will likely benefit when some of Dell's suppliers start looking for places to open operations near the plant. We expect that some of these suppliers will be in our neck of the woods."

Yet, Smothers added, they didn't plan to aggressively seek out these suppliers. "I figure Dell suppliers will probably contact us, if indeed they choose to follow Dell," she said Thursday. In putting together its incentives offer, High Point officials were firm in their desire not to raise taxes or utility rates for it, Smothers said.

"From the beginning, High Point was determined to put together a proposal that was affordable and attractive," she noted.

Economic development officials began meeting with Dell in April and submitted a 150-page proposal to the company Nov. 29. Dell officials were in High Point as recently as Dec. 17 gathering information, Hill said : "We wanted the project."

"We did the best proposal we could do to be responsible to our taxpayers."

\ Contact Denise Becker at 883-4422, Ext. 241, or dbecker@news-record.com

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