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City, County Officials Consider Economic Development Funds In Budget

By Jenny Callison, posted May 21, 2019
Funding the area's economic development drivers is a priority in both New Hanover County and city of Wilmington budget proposals for the fiscal year 2019-20, which begins July 1.

Both local governments have started their budget review process, with the city holding a public hearing Tuesday evening and county officials presenting their spending recommendations to county commissioners earlier this week.

In the county's $398.5 million budget plan, funding is included for several economic development items.

"Intelligent Growth and Economic Development is one of the three pillars of the county’s 2018-2023 strategy," County Manager Chris Coudriet wrote in the budget document. "This component of the strategy aims to leverage public infrastructure to encourage private investment, increase the diversity and number of higher wage jobs, and encourage development of complete communities."

To support those objectives, Coudriet said he recommends the following budget amounts:
  • $202,145 for Wilmington Business Development;
  • $65,000 for Wilmington Downtown Inc.;
  • $525,000 to Cape Fear Public Utility Authority for fire flow along US 421 as part of previously approved water and sewer installation;
  • $100,000 for a Preliminary Engineering Review (PER) for the Sidbury Road water line;
  • $60,000 for the county’s Blue Clay Road property to develop a master plan and PER, including site development costs, so the property can be returned to the private sector for industrial development;
  • $250,000 for a continued partnership with Wrightsville Beach for improvements near JohnnieMercer’s Pier;
  • $10,000 to continue Phase 2 of the stormwater utility study, which will focus on building public awareness of the proposed utility.
The proposed city budget of $200.6 million also provides funding for several economic development organizations, including Wilmington Business Development ($102,000), Wilmington Regional Film Commission ($121,890), UNCW’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship ($71,400) and Wilmington Downtown ($87,720).

The city's budget proposes nearly $4.3 million for additional strategic plan initiatives. Those include youth violence prevention, recreation programming for at-risk young people, affordable housing initiatives, infrastructure maintenance, public transportation support and efforts to increase the resiliency and sustainability of buildings and systems.

Neither the city nor the county budget proposal calls for a tax increase.

In the county staff's recommendations, Coudriet also addressed the need to explore affordable housing options, and included $45,000 for a workforce housing study and public opinion survey - in partnership with the city of Wilmington - to augment the already approved addition of a workforce housing specialist position to focus on policy development and provision of staff support for a permanent housing advisory committee.

The county will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget June 3 at 4 p.m. Commissioners are scheduled to adopt a final budget June 17.

The city's public hearing Tuesday takes place during the city council meeting to solicit public comments. Council members will review any changes to the budget June 4 and adopt a final budget June 18.
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