Back in 1993, Haywood County purchased 103 acres just outside Canton to create the Beaverdam Industrial Park. Several tenants have occupied the site, paying on average around $500,000 in taxes each year.
But there are still several vacant parcels, including a 10-acre pad that was subsequently developed by the county and the Haywood Advancement Foundation in 2008 — albeit without water and sewer infrastructure.
“We’ve had three companies, and we’re still a finalist there, that we get to this point and they talk about what utilities are up here and we say, ‘none,’” said David Francis, Haywood County’s program administrator and economic development guru. “There’s no water, sewer, there’s no electrical, there’s no gas.”
Electricity, Francis explained, is an easy fix because Duke or Dominion will come in and “tailor” a power solution for a new company, but grant solutions to pay for sewer and water extensions haven’t been feasible in the past.
The issue is becoming critical, as one particularly interested entity would bring more than 200 jobs to the site, should they select it.
To make that decision a little easier, commissioners and the Town of Canton proposed an agreement whereby the county would contribute $110,000 from fund balance, and Canton would provide the labor.
“This is an extremely competitive process, drawing these businesses here,” said Commissioner Kirk Kirkpatrick. “I was out here personally with a company at one point at time, speaking with them about the property and this was an issue, and has been an issue the entire time.”
Commissioner Brandon Rogers noted that as the property had been vacant for more than a decade, there’s no better time than now to begin realizing a positive cash flow from the parcel.
“It’s a small price to pay for the potential revenue that we could get off this property along with the jobs that could be supplied,” Rogers said. “It is really a small price to pay.”
Commissioner Mark Pless was the lone ‘no’ vote, issued after he’d questioned the county’s sales tax revenue collections (better than projected, according to County Manager Bryant Morehead) as well as the viability of using the proceeds from the sale of the Historic Haywood Hospital (already earmarked for affordable housing). Pless then requested the motion be delayed until the next meeting, but Chairman Kevin Ensley explained that delays could impact Canton’s participation, as could unpredictable fall weather.