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Commissioners approve incentive agreement for ‘I-85 Commerce Center’ on Webb Road

SALISBURY — The Rowan County Board of Commissioners on Monday night approved a tax incentive agreement for a major development near Interstate 85.

NorthPoint Development purchased 41 acres of property at 410 Webb Road with plans to build an approximately 675,000-square-foot speculative building primed to house a distribution center or manufacturing facility. The development is being called the “I-85 Commerce Center.” As part of its strategy to aggressively pursue tenants for the building, NorthPoint requested a tax incentive agreement from the county to lower lease rates and make the building more attractive to a prospective company.

NorthPoint, a national real estate development company, was responsible for the construction of the 609,301-square-foot distribution center in northeastern Rowan County now home to Chewy.

“All those that are married have a first date and you’re always wondering if you’ll get that second date,” Chairman Greg Edds said. “In this case, the first date went really well and they came back to us. We just want it to be said how much we appreciate NorthPoint. They are a real joy to work with.”

The tax incentive agreement will function similarly to the grants the county currently offers. The company that pays property taxes on the building — NorthPoint or its tenant — will receive a percentage of its paid taxes back from the county in the form of a grant.

The incentive agreement, Rowan Economic Development Council Vice President Scott Shelton said, will need to be amended once NorthPoint secures a tenant because the company will be the job creator on the property. The amount of investment made and jobs created by the tenant will also determine what kind of incentive deal is received. The amended agreement will come before commissioners for approval.

The terms of the incentive agreement require different minimum investments from the company and run for longer periods of time and at different percentages than three levels of investment grants currently offered by the county.

The agreement with NorthPoint increases the minimum investment for a level one grant from $5 million to $20 million. The minimum investment for a level two grant will be $40 million instead of $50 million and the minimum investment for a level three grant will be reduced from $100 million to $60 million.

The typical county investment grant is five years, but the agreement between county government and NorthPoint states that the level two grant would be for seven years and the level three grant would be for nine total years.

For the first five years, the percentage of taxes repaid to NorthPoint or the tenant will be 75% for the level one grant. The percentages of taxes repaid for the level two grant will be 80% for the first five years and 50% in years six and seven. The percentages of taxes repaid for the level three grant would be 80% in the first five years, 40% in years six and seven and 25% in years eight and nine.

Under the terms of the incentive agreement, both the level two and level three grants would result in an approximately 25% increase in tax incentives to the company when compared to the current Rowan County policy.

The incentive agreement is unique because it includes strict job creation requirements, instead of job creation goals. The minimum new jobs required would be 250 for a level one grant, 500 for a level two grant and 1,000 for a level three grant. If job requirements are not met, the board could reduce the incentive amount or terminate the agreement.

“The real value in these is the jobs and the opportunities of health insurance, the retirement, the wages,” Edds said. “That’s where the real value is.”

The agreement also requires the average wage for the jobs created be at least $16 per hour, excluding bonuses or benefits, throughout the term of this agreement. That requirement, Shelton said, can be amended throughout the life of the agreement to account for changes in standards of living. 

Vice Chair Jim Greene said the project should be “a real boon for Rowan County” and that “these are going to be 21st century jobs as far as the pay is concerned.” 

Shelton told commissioners multiple companies are expressing interest in bringing similar projects to Rowan County. However, Shelton said, the Rowan EDC is notifying prospective development companies the county is only interested in incentivizing projects that bring jobs, not just the construction of speculative buildings.

In other meeting business: 

• The Board of Commissioners approved a plan to pay county employees who volunteer and certain individuals with law enforcement experience $60 per hour to work the Autumn Jubilee, which will be held at Dan Nicholas Park on Oct. 2-3. Due to safety concerns employees may have about working an event that could draw thousands to the event, the county is not requiring anyone to work the Autumn Jubilee. Approximately 100 Rowan County employees will be allowed to volunteer each day to run the event and each employee will likely work 10-hour shifts.

The Autumn Jubilee has been modified to eliminate attractions that might lead to a higher risk of COVID-19 transmission. In addition to the vendors being spaced further apart this year, hayrides will not be given, there will be no live music, the children’s play area will not be offered and the pumpkin decorating contest will not be held.

Church said the county realizes that COVID-19 is still causing sickness and death and has not taken the decision to host the Autumn Jubilee lightly.

The sign-up process for county employees to volunteer for the event will be online. During the sign-up process, volunteers will be asked to sign the attached safety protocols and a release of liability. The first 100 employees to sign up will be chosen to work the event, but employees of the parks and animal services staff assigned to the Nature Center Division at Dan Nicholas Park will be given first consideration.

The funding for the pay rates will come from the American Rescue Plan. The board authorized the manager to use $120,000 in funding to staff the Jubilee.

• The board of commissioners approved moving forward with the construction of an access road from Jake Alexander Boulevard to the Rowan County Animal Shelter and the new dog wing, which is currently being constructed. County Manager Aaron Church said the current road is “beyond repair” and that something needs to be done to replace it. The project will cost $480,520. Carolina Siteworks was the low bidder for the project. The funding for the project will come primarily from the general fund, but $60,000 will be given by James River Equipment, who will also use the access road. The extension of the sewer line, which could cost between $100,000-$150,000 may be eligible for reimbursement from American Rescue Plan funding.

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