Under the Dome

Driving capital into NC rural communities is bill's aim

Attracting private investment in rural and economically distressed areas is the goal of a proposal that Sen. Rick Gunn will float again in the short session.

His New Market Jobs Act – Senate Bill 522 – was introduced last year but went nowhere. He’s retooled it and this week trotted it out to a legislative committee on economic development.

“Let’s see how it fits into our efforts to stimulate the economy and stimulate the dialogue,” the Burlington Republican told Dome on Friday. “I wanted to make sure it’s one tool we had.”

Under Gunn’s bill, private investors could apply to the Department of Commerce for loans covering a share of their investments, and they would decide where the money goes.

But 75 percent of the money would have to go to rural communities, and the rest would go to larger municipalities with economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. Loans would be capped at $7 million for each company.

Companies would have to invest 150 percent of the amount they raise, and they would have one year to get into the market. The state wouldn’t have any financial commitment during the first two years, but would participate in the next three years by awarding tax credits.

“There’s a good trend with our larger municipalities, but what’s happening in our rural communities is they’re dying on the vine,” said Gunn, who is in commercial real estate.