Southwest Wake: Celebrations

Fuquay-Varina considering incentives program

Town leaders could ramp up their efforts in November to recruit manufacturing, retail and downtown apartments to Fuquay-Varina.

The town board will vote Monday, Nov. 2, on establishing an economic incentives policy that would allow local leaders to use taxpayer dollars to woo businesses to town. The policy is several months in the making.

The incentives policy would permit the town to use public money to pay businesses to move to town and create jobs and/or increase the taxable value of property.

The main targets are manufacturing companies, retailers and, in downtown, mixed-use development.

Many towns and counties, as well as the state government, use incentives. Fuquay-Varina Mayor John Byrne said officials view it as a short-term expenditure that should create a long-term gain.

“If an investment is made and it can pay you back in three or four years, it’s probably not a bad investment,” Byrne said.

Jim Seymour, Fuquay-Varina’s economic development director, presented a final draft of the incentives plan to the board of commissioners last week. He said based on their feedback, he expects it to be approved at the Nov. 2 meeting.

“The biggest thing is this economic development policy, by modernizing it and the town board backing it, it sends a strong message to the development community,” Seymour said.

Members of the public who want to weigh in can do so before the board votes. Incentives sometimes draw political criticism, saying government shouldn’t be involved in the private sector.

Both Seymour and Byrne, though, said they haven’t heard pushback locally. Both said that because so many other cities and counties use incentives, many people believe them to be a necessary tool.

The incentives wouldn’t be automatic, but instead would require approval by the board of commissioners and a contract stipulating what happens if the company doesn’t follow through on its promises.

There is no cap on how much the town can spend. Seymour said the money would be set aside in the town’s general fund, and his plan doesn’t require a tax increase.

Five types of development would be eligible for incentives, as outlined in the plan:

▪ New industrial businesses, such as manufacturers, suppliers or distributors.

▪ Existing manufacturing companies that want to expand their facilities.

▪ High-end, large scale commercial and retail projects.

▪ New construction (in-fill) in either downtown district.

▪ Rehabilitation or redevelopment in either downtown district.

For the manufacturing and commercial projects, the proposed policy is an incentive of up to 5 percent of the total project cost.

For the downtown projects, projects will only be eligible if they increase the property value by at least 50 percent. The town would then be authorized to give an incentive equal to 100 percent of the assessed property value over a period of five to 10 years.

Seymour said the incentives for in-fill, or new development on empty land near downtown, are meant to attract mixed-use development. Mixed-use means a combination of apartments with retail or other non-residential uses. The theory is it would liven up downtown by bringing more pedestrians to the area.

The incentives for high-end retail, Seymour said, would ideally be used to bring in something akin to North Hills or Brier Creek in Raleigh.

“That’s who we are aiming for, who we are looking to recruit,” he said.

Incentives are only part of the tools Fuquay-Varina has been exploring for Seymour to use in business recruitment.

The town is considering building a business park. Leaders also have discussed installing high-speed Internet cables and expanding water and sewer lines to undeveloped land, to create so-called “shovel-ready” sites.

Seymour said he doesn’t know of any company who hasn’t decided to move to Fuquay-Varina because the town wasn’t offering an incentive.

Still, he said, it’s an important tool that he expects to have fast results.

“We plan to see more interest, immediately, from developers that were interested in our community already but maybe wanted to see a little more from the town,” he said.

Doran: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @will_doran

Want to learn more?

A presentation on incentives is at 7 p.m. Nov. 2, at Town Hall during the board’s regularly scheduled meeting.

Read the draft proposal at http://bit.ly/1OWLDGD on pages 99-111

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