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Developer eyes #036;1 million-plus project

AHOSKIE – While town officials remain tight-lipped in revealing some details, it appears a developer is interested in a major project in Ahoskie.

During Tuesday’s Town Council meeting, Ahoskie Town Manager Tony Hammond said the town had been approached by a developer interested in building a million-dollar-plus business within the city limits.

“We’re not in a position as of yet to reveal the name of the developer or reveal what type of business the developer is interested in here in Ahoskie,” Hammond said following the meeting.

During the meeting, Hammond did say a similar project was offered to, approved by and completed in Scotland Neck.

“That developer is very interested in Ahoskie,” Hammond noted. “If we decide not to take him up on his offer, he will take his project elsewhere.”

Hammond pointed out to the Council members that because development is becoming so competitive, certain incentives are sometimes necessary in order to bring a project to fruition.

The interested party has asked the town for a pair of incentives n to fund a feasibility study and to provide some type of economic development grant or incentive.

“The feasibility study will run us in the neighborhood of about $4,500,” Hammond said. “This is not a budgeted item, but we can use some funds from our Industrial Development Capital Reserve Fund.”

Hammond also suggested another idea to help offset the cost of the study. He said he had contacted Nucor, Berry Kerr and the Ahoskie Chamber of Commerce if they would be interested in partnering with the town to help pay for the study.

“With the anticipated return on the tax paid by this prospective business, this $4,500 will be money well spent,” Hammond said.

He added that the feasibility study is required by the financial institution backing the developer.

“The feasibility study can be completed in three-to-four weeks and that’s critical because we do not want this developer to take his business elsewhere,” Hammond stressed.

Ahoskie Mayor Linda Blackburn supported the study by saying, “Without it, we are completely out of the picture.”

When asked how many jobs this proposed development would bring to the town, Hammond said, “about four-to-eight.”

“But it’s not the creation of jobs that makes this project so appealing, it’s the tax base created by this development,” Hammond continued.

As far as offering economic development grants or incentives, Town Council members were presented on Tuesday with a policy that could be used for these types of situations.

“Let me start off by saying that this policy does not bind you to anything financially if the developer cannot meet the qualifying criteria,” Hammond said. “If the developer is able to meet the criteria, they may be offered a grant incentive over a five-year period.”

The proposed policy calls for a minimum investment of $1 million by a developer. That developer must show the number and type of jobs created, potential for future expansion and increased employment, cite specific issues that impact upon local infrastructure responsibilities and cite specific initiatives that may be pursued to stimulate other development in areas that the town may deem of significant benefit to the community.

“From what I’m hearing, this project may spark other growth in our town,” asked Town Councilwoman Elaine Myers, to which Hammond answered in the affirmative.

With Councilmen Ronald Gatling and O.S. “Buck” Suiter Jr. offering the motion and a second, the board approved the feasibility study (regardless of the joint funding) and the Economic Investment Development Policy.