County offer is put on hold

Durham rethinks incentives deal

Staff WriterJuly 21, 2006 

— County Manager Mike Ruffin put the brakes on a $400,000 incentives deal for a professional organization moving to Durham after confusion arose Thursday over whether the promise of public money actually played a key role in the organization's decision to relocate here.

The county Board of Commissioners was expected to approve a deal Monday to help lure the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants to Durham.

But Ruffin late Thursday yanked the deal from the board's agenda after a local news report suggested the county's incentives package was not a factor in the accounting organization's decision to move to Durham.

It isn't clear whether the miscommunication will torpedo the deal entirely.

"Whether or not the item gets back on the agenda, I don't know," Ruffin said late Thursday afternoon. "I have lots of questions."

The New Jersey-based organization discussed an incentives deal with county officials last year and decided to move to Durham last October.

The incentives deal was finalized several months ago but hadn't been put on the board's agenda until this month.

A spokesman for the accounting organization clarified previous statements Thursday, saying the incentives deal played a role in the institute's decision after the list of potential relocation sites had been narrowed to three. Up to that point, however, the organization had evaluated potential relocation sites using other factors such as work force resources and quality of life, said Joel Allegretti, the spokesman.

"The incentives were a factor; they were an important factor," Allegretti said. "It showed the support of the community. Everybody's very happy about Durham."

The institute, the professional organization for about 350,000 accountants, plans to create about 400 jobs in Durham in a new building near Interstate 40 and N.C. 54. The incentives package is a fairly standard tool the county uses when attempting to lure companies to Durham. The $400,000 deal would be used to help the institute defray relocation and training costs.

But Ruffin said Thursday he wants to be totally sure the county's money is being spent for a reason.

"You shouldn't give people $400,000 if they're coming anyway," he said.

Staff writer Eric Ferreri can be reached at 956-2415 or eferreri@newsobserver.com.

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