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Details scarce on incentive package; Hickory council, Catawba County board to hold joint meeting on incentives

Details scarce on incentive package; Hickory council, Catawba County board to hold joint meeting on incentives

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Trivium Corporate Center

Leaders from Hickory and Catawba County will hold a special meeting next week concerning incentives for American Fuji Seal, a new company locating in the Trivium Corporate Center. 

The Hickory City Council and Catawba County Board of Commissioners will conduct a joint meeting on Jan. 20 to hold public hearings on economic incentives for the company American Fuji Seal.

The Japanese-based manufacturer of product labels was announced as the newest tenant in the Trivium Corporate Center in December.

Trivium is the business park being developed by the city and county between Startown and Robinwood roads. The corporate center’s board, which includes leaders from the city, county and Catawba County Economic Development Corporation, will hold a meeting at the same time.

At this point, it is not clear exactly what incentives will be considered. 

The legal notice for the meeting states the county and city plan to establish an economic incentive agreement with the company and “to expend (public) funds for an economic development project.” Public funds are taxpayer dollars.

The Trivium Corporate Center intends to transfer a little more than 25 acres of land in the business park to the company.

Beyond that, no details are provided on the exact nature of the agreements the bodies will consider.

The fair market value of the land in question is given as $45,000 per acre for primary development land and $25,000 for storm water development land.

However, the notice does not specify how much of the land falls into each category or if the company will be paying the fair market value or some lower price as a type of incentive.

No amounts for the value of the incentives from the city or county are provided. Nor is it entirely clear what the company’s obligations are under the agreement.

When the company’s plan to locate was announced, some commitments were outlined. The company intends to invest at least $52 million and hire 101 workers. 

The notice for the meeting says that “consideration shall consist of the creation of new jobs, real property improvements and additional value for ad valorem taxes.”

It is not specified whether the stipulations are the same as those announced in December of if additional conditions will be required.

Hickory Mayor Hank Guess and Catawba County Communications and Marketing Director Amy McCauley said this week that terms were still being finalized.

Guess said the details likely would not be revealed to the public until the meeting, saying the parties are still having confidential discussions.

“It would be premature to discuss right now what those incentives might be because, to be quite honest with you, I don’t know at this point until we have this meeting and we all agree on it,” Guess said.

Is the notice sufficient?

State law lays out several requirements for notice for economic development hearings.

Tyler Mulligan, a professor with the University of North Carolina School of Government, summarized those requirements in a 2019 blog post.

When it comes to transfer of land, Mulligan wrote, government bodies are required to give notice of “the interest to be conveyed or leased, the value of the interest, the proposed consideration for the conveyance or lease and the governing body’s intention to approve the conveyance or lease.”

In cases where local governments are acquiring property or proposing improvements to private property, they are obligated to describe the interest in the property or improvements, specify how the proposal will be funded and give any other information “needed to reasonably describe (the acquisition or improvements.)”

Mulligan wrote that in cases that do not fit into those categories, the guidance is to describe the incentives, state the public benefit of the incentives and include any additional information “needed ‘to reasonably describe’ the incentives.”

In a response to an email inquiry, Mulligan said more information would be needed to say exactly whether the notice for the meeting complies with the law.

“It is not possible for me to say whether the notice meets the requirements of the law until the incentive arrangement is placed before the governing boards for final approval,” Mulligan said. “Only at that time will it be possible to look back and say whether or not the various boards provided adequate notice of the package.”

Kevin Griffin is the City of Hickory reporter at the Hickory Daily Record.

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