06/10/09 — Duplin board discusses economic incentives

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Duplin board discusses economic incentives

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on June 10, 2009 1:46 PM

Duplin County commissioners voted Monday after meeting in closed session to say that "the county may be interested in offering an incentive package for 'Project Chest' to include tax incentives for three years at 80 percent, contingent upon a public hearing and a performance agreement."

However, officials would not name the company that could receive the grant, where it might locate, how many jobs it might create or how much it might invest.

Heather Beard, Duplin County Economic Development director, would only describe the project as "an agriculture-based commodity," and would only say that the incentive -- a refund of the company's property taxes up to 80 percent -- would be contingent upon those jobs and investment being created.

"The company asked us to keep this confidential," she said. "It's a competitive situation."

Local governments are allowed, according to the state attorney general's Guide to Open Government and Public Records "to withhold records from public inspection if public knowledge of the records would interfere with negotiations or deter a business from locating or expanding ..."

Local governments are only required to release that information "when there is no longer a danger that releasing the records might prevent the project from materializing ...," "once a business has selected a specific location to locate or expand in the state ..." or "once a state or local government or specific business has communicated a commitment, or a decision by the state or local government has been announced ..."

And, Mrs. Beard explained, the commission's actions Monday night did not, in her view or the view of the county attorney, amount to a commitment or a decision -- simply a willingness to entertain the idea of offering an incentive.

She did say, though, that she hopes the county might be able to schedule a public hearing on the project sometime in the next few months -- a prospect she's excited about.

"Any time a business decides to locate or operate in Duplin County I think it's a huge win for us, especially in a downturn economy," Mrs. Beard said.