ROCKINGHAM — Local job creation and business investment are on the upswing, according to a presentation made Tuesday by economic developer Martie Butler to the Richmond County Board of Commissioners during its regular monthly meeting.
County Manager Rick Sago said Richmond County has been regionally competitive for a number of years in attracting jobs and making use of government resources designed to help businesses and communities support each other.
“We’ve had a really good year, there’s no doubt about that,” Sago said. “We’ve had five (industrial and business) announcements, and it adds up to a little over $46 million and 338 jobs. Martie (Butler) created the presentation, and it is a summary of what we’ve done this year.”
Sago said the county obtained community development block grants funded by the federal government.
“It goes to the state of North Carolina, and is used by local communities who apply for it,” he explained. “One thing Richmond County’s always been good at — and North Carolina has been really good to us — is we use every incentive out there. They’ve been great in helping us land new industries and develop existing industries.”
He said the county received a variety of grant funding in 2016. In order for the programs to be effective, local governments must match the amounts awarded to businesses — but the matching funds do not have to be money. He said they are normally tax incentives.
“We’ve used four different programs this year to help either new or expanding businesses,” Sago said. “And we’ve had a lot of support from the (N.C.) Department of Commerce. The first type of program is a CDBG infrastructure fund — the kind we used for RSI — and that pays for improvements on infrastructure to support a new or expanding business.
“Then there’s the One NC Fund, that’s the governor’s discretionary fund,” he continued. “We used that for Purdue, RSI and Direct Pack. Next, we used what’s called a CDBG building re-use grant for Direct Pack. And the last one is the industrial development fund — that’s also through the department of commerce — and we got $1 million towards explanding our water treatment plant to support Perdue’s expansion.”
Tuesday, commissioners approved a budget ordinance for a $2.4 million CDBG to install a new road, waterline, wastewater and gas line to serve the RSI project.
As a result of these investments in 2016, 332 new jobs were announced and the county gained more than $46 million in new investments, according to Butler’s report.
Sago also said people often falsely believe the county “gives money away to these companies” and gets nothing in return.
“Say the company has got to spend a million dollars to upgrade their building: the company has to pay half and CDBG through the department of commerce pays the other half,” he said. “And we match what they get, in value, usually with tax incentives, as I said. But over time, as they pay their taxes that’s coming back to the county. They’re getting paid, we’re getting paid. It’s a win-win for everybody.”
He also explained that the criteria for selection to receive grant funds is precise and formulaic.
“The board of commissioners is extremely aggressive when it comes to economic development,” he said. “And every bit of it is performance-based. We don’t give out any money unless those we’re investing in meet certain standards. There is a cost benefit analysis done on every company to make sure we are getting our money back, and more. We don’t want people thinking we just throw away money, because we don’t.”
This past year, the county increased teacher salary supplements by 10 percent and still managed to lower the property tax rate to $0.79 per $100 valuation — down two cents from the previous rate of $0.81.
“We’re creating jobs and creating investment to hopefully keep the tax rate at least where it’s at,” Sago said.
Compared with other parts of the Sandhills region — spanning Columbus, Cumberland, Hoke, Montgomery, Moore, Richmond, Robeson, Sampson and Scotland counties — Richmond County had 47 percent of all job announcements in 2016 and 53 percent of all taxable investment.
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.