City: Biz seeks incentives to create 90 jobs


By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Saturday, June 22, 2019

A long-standing Elizabeth City business is proposing to expand and create 90 jobs, contingent on state and local incentive dollars, city officials reported Friday.

The company, which city officials have dubbed “Project Clarence,” is seeking a $500,000 Building Reuse grant from the N.C. Department of Commerce, plus a “discretionary incentive,” to expand its operations in Elizabeth City, City Manager Rich Olson and Elizabeth City-Pasquotank County Economic Developer Christian Lockamy said Friday. The company’s expansion would create 90 jobs, they said.

Project Clarence is different from “Project Elizabeth,” another potential business seeking state grants to create jobs in Pasquotank County. That company is proposing to invest $5.5 million — up from the $3.5 million county officials first reported — to create 75 jobs.

Both companies have requested anonymity — which is allowed under state law — while they decide whether to invest in the city and county.

Olson apparently reported on Project Clarence during a closed session of City Council’s Finance Committee on Thursday. Following that meeting, Olson shared a memo proposing the city sponsor the Building Reuse grant application for the Clarence project.

On Monday, the council will consider scheduling a public hearing for July 22 on whether to sponsor the Building Reuse grant. If it does, the city will have to commit to a 5-percent local match of state grant, which would work out to $25,000.

Olson also reported that Clarence is “an expansion project of a local Elizabeth City business.” The Building Reuse grant is specifically tied to 40 of the 90 new jobs the company is proposing to create, he also reported.

In an interview Friday, Lockamy said the timeline of Building Reuse grants, which require jobs to be created in several months, mean the company only tied some of its jobs to that grant. The discretionary incentive would provide funding based on all 90 jobs that have been proposed, he said.

That incentive will also require a local match, Lockamy said.

As for Project Elizabeth, Lockamy said the county is awaiting the company’s decision, which should come in a week or two. Pasquotank commissioners earlier this month approved sponsoring a discretionary incentive and Building Reuse grant for that company, with the county’s local matches totaling $102,500.

In new developments, Olson has proposed the city contribute toward the Elizabeth project as well, offering $25,000 from the city’s aviation fund to cover part of Pasquotank’s match. The finance committee on Thursday recommended the city approve a budget amendment for the contribution.

Olson also shared some new details on the Elizabeth project, and recommended supporting its investment, even if it’s outside the city limits.

“This company plans on purchasing a building in the Commerce Industrial Park,” Olson wrote in an email. “Although the company will not be expanding within the city’s corporate limits and is not tied to our electrical utility, staff has been involved with the company for over a decade. The city council was actively involved in the recruitment of this firm when it originally decided to locate in Elizabeth City.”

If the two companies move forward with their investments, they would add 165 higher-paying jobs to the Elizabeth City area. Though it would be a major economic boost, Lockamy described himself as cautiously optimistic Friday since neither is a done deal yet.

“I’m definitely pumped up, but measured,” he said.