Archived Story

County, city support Project Blue Goose

Published 6:56pm Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A project that could create up to 100 new jobs in Beaufort County during the next five years took a step forward Monday when two local governments agreed to provide incentives for the project.
On Monday, the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners approved the county sharing up to $103,013 of the project cost. That same day, the Washington City Council approved the city sharing up to $97,183 of the project cost, estimated at $9.4 million.
The incentives come in the form of a 50-percent rebate that the two companies that are part of the project — Oak Ridge Metal Works and Pronamic Industries — would pay in real-estate and machinery taxes during a five-year period.
The county’s contribution contributions are contingent upon Project Blue Goose generating $206,026 in new revenue to the county during the five-year period and generating $194,3667 in new revenue for the city in that same five years.
The rebates would come only after verification that Oak Ridge Metal Works and Pronamic Industries have met the conditions of their agreements with the local governments, according to Bob Heuts, the county’s economic developer, who appeared before the commissioners and council to explain the project.
The county and the city are supporting applications for grant funding to help Oak Ridge Metal Works expand at the former Brooks Boatworks building at the Beaufort County Industrial Park and locate Pronamics Industries in the Quick Start II building at the industrial park. That building has been dubbed the Blue Goose because of its exterior paint scheme.
The county and city are co-owners of the industrial park.
Oak Ridge Metal Works wants to create up to 35 new jobs during the five-year period. Pronamics Industries wants to create up to 65 new jobs during those five years.
Also in the mix to help the project move along are possible incentives in the form of grant funding from the One NC Fund ($150,000) and Community Development Block Grant program (up to $750,000 for Pronamics Industries and up to $320,000 for Oak Ridge Metal Works).
In his remarks to the commissioners and council, Heuts said he understands that such incentives are not popular with many people, including taxpayers. Incentives are needed at times to help recruit a new industry or business when other places are seeking the same industry or business, he said. Lancaster, S.C., was recruiting Project Blue Goose, he said.
Commissioner Ed Booth raised concerns about the county being on the hook for possibly paying back some or all of the grant funds if Project Blue Goose fails. Heuts said the agreements between Project Blue Goose and the county and city will have built-in guarantees to prevent the local governments from having to pay back any grant funds.
As for the 50-percent tax rebates during the five-year period, Commissioner Hood Richardson said, “We don’t write them a check until they write us a check.”
In his remarks to the council, Heuts said, “I think we have an opportunity to put a package together that would help drive a business to make the decision to be here in Beaufort County and Washington as opposed to anywhere else in the country.”
Councilman Doug Mercer expressed concern about the city possibly being liable for repaying all or part of the grant funding should Project Blue Goose not meet its job-creation obligations under the grant conditions.
“I feel that the city and the county should be in a position that they have a lien against the physical assets of that company so that we have something in hand that allows us to recoup our money if those situations do occur,” Mercer said.
Heuts said he believes such safeguards will be in place once the agreements have been finalized. Those agreements will come back to council for final approval, he noted.
Pronamics Industries is a filter-media company. Oak Ridge Metal Works is a metalworking company. Heuts said the two would provide jobs at or above the average wage in the county.
For additional details on Project Blue Goose, see future editions of the Washington Daily News.

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