County moves forward on proposed industrial park
The Davidson County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution during its regular meeting Tuesday to receive an economic incentive grant that will help fund the I-85 Corporate Center, LLC.
This was the latest step toward building an industrial park in Linwood.
While originally asking for $5 million in grant money through the Community Development Block Grant loan from the North Carolina Department of Commerce, the county was awarded $7 million last week for the project. Steve Googe, director of the Davidson County Economic Development Commission, said his team is waiting to hear about $2 million in additional funding from the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant.
In total, the county could provide up to $9 million on the front end of a project that Googe says will stimulate the local economy, increase the tax base and revenues, ultimately creating jobs for the county's residents. Funds will be used in land acquisition, site preparation, infrastructure and roadway improvements.
“We've been working on this for at least 15 years that I know about,” said Larry Potts, chairman of the Davidson County Board of Commissioners. “Our future is ahead of us. I'd like to see a future for our grandkids in Davidson County. We can plan for the future, or we can wait for the future to get here and see what happens.”
Davidson County EDC, Davidson Progress and private landowners are collaborating to bring a park to the county, but faced more than slight resistance from three county commissioners. Commissioners Fred McClure, Don Truell, Sam Watford and Potts voted for the resolution, while commissioners Steve Shell, Todd Yates and Steve Jarvis voted against.
An hour-long discussion between Googe, Robin Team, the president of Davidson Progress and the commissioners gave way to a moderately heated exchange between Team and Yates.
Googe lobbied the board to provide an incentive package loan to the LLC, mirroring the loan funds awarded to the county. Team said Davidson Progress went through all the proper channels and is operating with the transparency the commissioners requested, producing a disbursement agreement regarding how the funds will be paid back.
He also appealed to the unanimity with which all municipalities – including the Thomasville City Council – supported the project.
“We met with every single board and they all provided that support,” Team said. “County commissioners are stewards of the taxpayer's money,” Team said. “I respect that and I agree with that.”
Yates maintains reservations about the county fronting such a large sum of money to property owners and Davidson Progress, which is a non-profit, privately-funded economic development organization. He surmised the project could be a boon for the county, but could be a disaster if businesses move in, only to pull out after temporarily investing in the community.
“I've read story after story where communities are going bankrupt because they gave too many incentives and companies closed down,” Yates said. “If this was my money, I wouldn't loan it. I don't think you can carry this into any bank with the information we have now and they would loan it. I don't have a crystal ball. It could be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but we could be paying $88,000 a month for 10 years. I want to see some better numbers.”
Staff Writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 888-3578, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.