Chapel Hill News

Orange Co. board supports $4M incentive for Chapel Hill Wegmans

The Orange County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to move ahead with a $4 million incentive for Wegmans Food Market.

The incentive would be paid to Wegmans using its future property and sales tax revenues, starting in the second year. The county would pay up to $800,000 a year for five years.

The board also approved a cost-sharing agreement with the town of Chapel Hill, which will pay for half the total incentive. The next step is for Wegmans to submit a concept plan to the town.

The incentive would help Wegmans clean up, develop the site and build the project. The site is the only one in Orange County that meets Wemans priorities, economic development director Steve Brantley said, but there are environmental and road concerns to work out.

The $30 million investment is expected to roughly double the existing property value.

The company would qualify for the incentive by creating 185 full-time jobs and 413 part-time jobs over five years. A large number would start at $12 an hour, and employees with at least 30 hours a week would get health insurance.

The company also must meet annual property and sales tax revenue goals.

Brantley said the county and Chapel Hill have been meeting to talk about an incentive program and economic strategy to attract a range of companies. The Wegmans project came up in the spring, he said.

It would replace the 14-acre Performance AutoMall, which is moving from its U.S. 15-501 location to Durham next year, with a 130,000-square-foot grocery.

Chapel Hill, beginning with Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s move to Durham, has lost more than 2,000 jobs in the last year, Brantley said.

Wegmans would hired about 90 percent of its employees locally, said Dan Aken, the company’s director of real estate and site development. The rest would be filled by corporate employees from other areas.

The company is fully immersed in its “corporate culture and core values,” Aken said, and in the community through food donations and cash contributions to local groups.

This is a win for the county, the commissioners said, in terms of jobs and community benefits. The Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau also thinks Wegmans will add to the food and hospitality culture, Commissioner Penny Rich said, and grow local tourism offerings.

Commissioner Barry Jacobs noted the county has provided incentives to other companies – Morinaga candy company and AKG of America – in recent years.

“It occurs to me that for those who have criticized Orange County in the past for being slow to promote economic development, to welcome business, to provide incentives, when we have acted, we have done well, I think, and this is another example of that,” he said.

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926, @TammyGrubb