Tweaks recommended to county incentives policy
The Lee County Board of Commissioners's economic incentive policy became the focus of discussion during the presentation of the Convergent Nonprofit Solutions Fundraising Feasibility Study at the Thursday Sanford-Lee County Partnership for Prosperity meeting.
If the commissioners' guidelines — a policy that critics claim is noncompetitive — are not changed, then it is likely, according to Convergent Principal Rick Kiernan, that the new economic development group may only raise $400,000 to $500,000 of the $1.25 million needed for its current program of work. If the guidelines are adjusted, he speculated, more than $1 million could be garnered.
Referencing those findings, interim EDC Director Crystal Morphis wrote a memo to the Partnership for Prosperity steering committee with five recommended changes to the Lee County policy.
Current Clause: No incentive will be given to a business unless Lee County is competing with a jurisdiction outside the state of North Carolina.
Recommendation: To be considered, projects must be competitive with other jurisdictions, allowing for competition within and outside the state.
In-State Expansion Clause
Current Clause: No incentive will be offered to any business presently operating in another county of North Carolina for the exclusive purpose of recruiting that business to relocate to Lee County.
Recommendation: "Keep the clause but add: Companies expanding due to facility obsolesce will be considered."
Existing Business Competition Clause
Current Clause: No incentive will be given if the new business would directly compete for market share with an existing business within the county.
Recommendation: The impact of the new entity, positive or negative, on current businesses will be considered by the commissioners.
Current Clause: A new or expanding company must create 25 new jobs to qualify for an incentive.
Recommendation: A new or expanding company must create new jobs in Lee County, thus allowing companies to expand using technology with minimal job creation.
Current Clause: A new business must create $20 million in new investment, and an existing business must create $10 million in new investment, to be considered for an incentive.
Recommendation: A new business must create at least $2 million in new investment, and an existing business must create $1 million in new investment. This would make Lee County more competitively in line with its neighbors and the North Carolina average incentive threshold.