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County weighs spending $1.8M to lure more jobs

 

Commissioners to consider spec building proposal Mon.

SARAH LOWERY

Staff Writer

Whether to move forward with a proposal to build a $1.8 million, publicly funded speculative building in one of the county’s industrial parks will be a matter of discussion by the Board of Commissioners during its meeting Monday night.

Lincoln County residents will have a chance to offer their comments on the project first, as a public hearing is scheduled to take place prior to a vote on the item.

The county has long been considering the construction of a shell building to help land potential industries looking to locate here, with Lincoln Economic Development Association officials having said they have lost out on prospects who required a readily available building to move into.

However, initial efforts were geared toward having a private developer construct the facility, County Manager George Wood explained in a memo to commissioners in December.

The county prepared and sent out a request for proposals (RFP), but ended up receiving very little interest. After discussions with two companies, Wood noted that it became clear that they were asking for “serious incentives to build here.”

“While we all have preferred to have a private-sector entrepreneur assume the risk in this venture, it is apparent from their responses that they want to shift to the county a great deal of the cost, and ultimately, the risk of finding a tenant or buyer,” he wrote.

LEDA Business Development Manager Crystal Gettys recommends, based on previous inquiries, the potential shell building be 60,000 square feet, with room for that footage to be doubled, Wood wrote.

He cited Cleveland County as an example of where a similar situation has played out successfully, with Shelby having financed a spec building in 2011 for a total cost of $2.56 million, which was then completely recouped when it was sold for more than $2.7 million.

“I realize and fully appreciate that publicly funding a speculative building would be a new venture for Lincoln County, but it is actually a very common practice around the country,” Wood wrote.

While such a project comes with inherent risk, Wood explained that statistics show that 80 percent of industrial prospects today are looking for readily available buildings. Likewise, he noted that private companies would not be able to obtain financing at the low rates available to the county.

“I have confidence in our LEDA staff, that if given this tool, they will be able to lease or sell the building within a three-year period,” he wrote.

Also on Monday’s meeting agenda, a public hearing will be conducted regarding a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for economic development for Denver Global Products, acquired by China-based RATO as a subsidiary last year.

Part of the county’s incentive package to lure the company here included a waiver of water and sewer capacity development fees, water and sewer tap fees and building inspection fees and permits, as well as a reduction of land price (if applicable).

The requested CDBG funding, in the amount of $396,000, would go toward water and sewer infrastructure required to connect RATO’s planned 450,000-square-foot facility, off N.C. 16 near Airlie Business Park in Denver, with existing water and sewer lines.

As the Times-News previously reported, the company announced in October its plans to locate its manufacturing, distribution and research and development operations in Lincoln County, bringing with it 450 jobs over the next four years. At the time, a location for its manufacturing campus had yet to be decided upon, though construction was expected to be under way on the facilities early this year.

The company plans to invest more than $40 million locally. Additionally, while individual wages for the 450 jobs will vary by job function, the average annual payroll for the new jobs will be more than $13.4 million.

Other items on Monday night’s Board of Commission meeting agenda include:

  • A public hearing will be conducted regarding a ground lease with Delaware-based Borghetti Turbos North America. The company is eyeing a 5.5-acre parcel of land in the Lincoln County Industrial Park, upon which it could construct at least a 20,000-square-foot facility and employ at least five people making no less than $500 per week.
  • Commissioners will consider executing a contract, in the amount of $819,200, for the construction of Rock Springs Park.
  • Commissioners will consider approving the Community Transportation Program.
  • Commissioners will consider authorizing the county attorney and county manager to exercise the purchase option for the Bank of America property on East Main Street in Lincolnton.
  • Commissioners will consider a resolution adopting a revised schedule of fees and charges for the combined water and sewer system of Lincoln County.
  • Commissioners will consider approving a ground lease with Alexis Fire Department for an emergency communications tower, as well as a lease for an emergency communications tower with SBA Towers II on Killian Farm Road.
  • A closed session will be conducted regarding the acquisition of property and a personnel-related issue.

The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Citizens Center and is open to the public.

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