Waynesville hopes business incentives could help land new jobs

The Town of Waynesville might join the 60 percent of local governments in North Carolina that have adopted a formal business incentive policy.

Mayor Gavin Brown introduced the notion of a policy at last week’s town board meeting. He suggested instituting a similar policy to that of Haywood County. The county commissioners passed incentive guidelines in 2004, partly to avoid making a subjective call about when to offer an incentive.

The policy would offer varying tax incentives depending on how much a company spends on equipment or building costs and how many jobs it creates. It would act as a guideline for businesses interested in moving to the area, Brown said. The policy would not force the town to offer specific tax breaks or other incentives.

“The rules favor incentives,” Brown said. “If you don’t have incentives, you can’t get in the game.”

The cost of developing land in Haywood County can deter businesses. The county purchased 10 acres for the County Industrial Park in the early 90s, Brown said. The cost of grading out the land raised the price about $10,000 an acre. The county is marketing the land for $40,000 per acre, which is expensive when a business can purchase a similar tract for about $5,000 an acre in South Carolina, he said.

Possible tax breaks could give potential businesses another reason not to discount the town.

“It can tip the scale,” Brown said.

Waynesville has previously offered businesses lower water and electricity rates as informal incentives.

In the past, the town has also applied for a grant from the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center on behalf of Haywood Vocational Opportunities because, as a nonprofit, it is not eligible for such funding. The money was used to expand HVO’s medical supply factory.

The vast majority — 95 percent — of North Carolina counties offer some form of incentives, an increase from 83 percent in 2010.

The county’s policy offers up to five consecutive years of property tax breaks but requires a capital investment of at least $500,000 and creation of at least 15 jobs.

The incentive policy would focus mainly on attracting new businesses and would include a claw-back clause if the company fails to meet the requirements.

“I think what this policy would do is say Waynesville is business friendly,” Brown said.

Brown said he hopes to vote on an incentive policy next meeting.

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