10/07/07 — Duplin approves incentive package

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Duplin approves incentive package

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on October 7, 2007 2:20 AM

KENANSVILLE -- Thankful for the more than 100 jobs provided by Menlo Logistics Inc., the Duplin County Board of Commissioners wasted no time this week approving a $210,000 incentive package for the distribution and warehousing company located along U.S. 117 South in Warsaw.

"One of the things we did to entice them to Warsaw was make some incentives available to them," said economic development director Woody Brinson. "We were competing heavily with a site in Virginia."

Arriving in June, the California-based company has already exceeded the county's requirements to create at least 30 new jobs over the next three years and to invest at least $1 million.

"They've been a good corporate addition to Duplin County," Brinson said.

The first part of the incentive package is a $200,000 loan from the county's Economic Development Revolving Loan Fund.

The fund, which was created more than a decade ago with about $700,000 in federal government seed money, has loaned out nearly $3.5 million over the years.

For Menlo, the money is being provided at a 4 percent interest rate for three years to help purchase equipment. The company will be required to maintain at least 30 of those jobs for the life of the loan.

The town of Warsaw also is expected to provide its own $200,000 grant, pending a public hearing at its city council meeting.

In addition, the commissioners also agreed to refund about 30 percent of Menlo's property tax payments for the next three years as part of a local match of a $30,000 One North Carolina grant from the governor's office.

It requires a 100 percent local match. A portion of that will come from the property tax refund and a portion from the difference between the county's 4 percent interest rate and the industry standard of 8 percent.

"I'd like the taxpayers to know that sometimes we have to do certain things to get these companies and industries," commission Chairman David Fussell said after the public hearing. "They will pay for themselves in the long run. This is a good investment of your tax dollars."

In other action, the commission also heard from a group of county contractors that has formed a non-profit corporation to collectively bid on debris removal contracts.

The group, which is made up of 20 local businesses, formed over the summer after protesting the commission's decision to sign a storm debris removal contract with a Louisiana company.

However, because hurricane season is almost over and that contract is almost up, the general consensus among county officials was that there was no need to rush through the re-bidding process.

County Manager Mike Aldridge also said that because most of the roads in Duplin County are state-maintained, there's actually little need for the county to have its own contract -- unless there is a clear understanding between it and the Department of Transporta-tion about each's responsibilities. He also said that such discussions should include the county's municipalities as well.

"These contractors have many, many years of hurricane cleanup experience. Most of us have served on disaster recovery teams all across the country, and we know beyond a shadow of a doubt we can take care of home," corporation vice president Arthur Tuten of Rose Hill said.

And finally, the board voted to direct county attorney Wendy Sivori to begin taking legal action to evict bio-fuel company Cropholding Inc. from the small business incubator in the county's industrial park West Park near Warsaw.

After reluctantly granting the company, which is owned by Jeff Foster, Johnson Sheffield, Steve Sheffield and Al Cobb, a reprieve in August, the commission decided they had given them enough chances.

The problem was that not only have no rent or utilities been paid since September 2006, but also that in August the four men were told they could continue deferring payment until Nov. 1 -- only if they cooperated in the creation of a payment plan in the meantime.

Unfortunately, Sivori said, they have not.

"I think we have been gracious enough," Commissioner Reginald Wells said.