Local economic development leaders encouraged commercial real estate professionals at a meeting Tuesday to contact elected officials on the need for state incentives to attract companies and jobs.
“The incentive policies in North Carolina are a challenge when you can go to South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Texas or Tennessee. They blow North Carolina out of the water,” said Jim Bradshaw, executive director of the Brunswick County Economic Development Commission.
Bradshaw, along with The Southeastern Partnership president Steve Yost and Wilmington Business Development CEO Scott Satterfield, answered questions Tuesday morning about economic development efforts during the Realtors Commercial Alliance of Southeastern North Carolina general membership meeting, held at the Terraces on Sir Tyler.
The organizations Bradshaw, Yost and Satterfield represent announced in January the formation of the Wilmington Regional Marketing Initiative
, a combined effort for Brunswick, Pender and New Hanover counties. Yost provided an update at the RCASENC meeting on the initiative’s recent and upcoming activities, which include a recent site selectors conference the leaders attended, a trip to a craft beer brewers conference in April and a planned local site tour for selectors in May.
Bradshaw said on the BCEDC’s Facebook page that he met with a number of site consultants one on one at the February site selectors conference “to remind them of our industrial parks in Brunswick County" and each one "expressed their concerns about the elimination of industrial incentives in N.C. and their apprehension to bring large industrial projects to N.C.”
At the Tuesday meeting in Wilmington, Satterfield said part of the problem is a misunderstanding about how incentives work.
“For the most part, with most incentives, you’re actually allowing a company to keep their money. There’s not an account in New Hanover County with $5 million in it that says OK we’re going to give this to Live Oak or CastleBranch or whoever,” Satterfield said. “Typically the company has to perform. They have to hire people at certain wages; they have to build buildings; there has to be some ad valorem impact.
“You’re not really giving away anything. The company’s doing the giving.”
Yost pointed out to those who attended Tuesday’s meeting that House Bill 117
, the N.C. Competes Act, is currently with the N.C. House’s Committee on Finance.
“It includes taking care of our most important state incentive program, which is JDIG [Jobs Development Investment Grant], but also creating or raising from the dead an old existing Site Development Fund,” Yost said. “Now is the time to contact your legislators or start contacting them, particularly your House legislators.”
Local House Representatives are Rick Catlin (R-New Hanover); Ted Davis (R-New Hanover); Susi Hamilton (D-Brunswick and New Hanover); Frank Iler (R-Brunswick); and Chris Millis (R-Onslow and Pender). Davis and Hamilton are members of the Committee on Finance and they, along with Millis, Catlin and Sen. Michael Lee (R-New Hanover) are scheduled to attend the Wilmington Regional Association of Realtors legislative luncheon March 13 in Wilmington.
Hansen Matthews, partner in commercial real estate firm Maus, Warwick, Matthews & Co., told those who attended the RCASENC meeting Tuesday that the legislative luncheon is a good opportunity to talk to lawmakers about incentives, including last year’s loss of state tax credits for the film industry.
Lynn Harris, commercial broker with Century 21 Sweyer & Associates, said another opportunity to be heard is coming up in April during the Raleigh legislative meetings scheduled by the N.C. Association of Realtors.
Satterfield said incentives aren’t the only important issue when it comes to luring companies to the area, citing the completion of road work on key arteries and continuing to upgrade the State Port as examples among many. Special use permits can in some cases present another obstacle to economic development efforts, Satterfield said.
“Clearly, there’s some initiatives to strengthen that as it is, which we think is a bad idea,” Satterfield said, in response to an earlier question from event organizer and broker John Hinnant about the impact of special use permits on local targeted sectors, such as aerospace manufacturing. Satterfield added, “It can impact existing industry, it can impact how the consultants that we’re meeting with are viewing this area, and it can also make it very difficult in a highly competitive process when you start duplicating the amount of work that a company has to do to find itself located in a community.”