County wants economic group to help it be ‘industry ready’

Published 7:32 pm Monday, April 9, 2007

By Staff
Northeast Region asked to pay for ‘speculative’ buildings
BY NIKIE MAYO, News Editor
Beaufort County commissioners are developing a pitch to get a regional economic-development engine to finance “industry ready” buildings in the counties it serves.
The proposal is directed toward the former Northeast Partnership, which became the Northeastern North Carolina Regional Economic Development Commission after a state audit last spring found the group had mishandled money in the millions.
Revamped and reorganized, the Northeast Partnership no longer exists. The commissioners’ proposal terms the group only “Northeast Region,” but asks that the group stay true to its original mission — investing in the region to make it stronger.
Commissioners want the Northeast Region to ante up on some of the buildings that are being constructed in Beaufort County to attract industry and, in turn, jobs. Their proposal asks the organization to pay interest incurred during construction of “industry ready” buildings and also asks the group to promote their availability.
Under the other terms of the proposal, the applicant county or city would have to invest at least 20 percent of the total project cost, using its own cash as equity. But if the applicant chose to invest more toward the project’s cost, the Northeast Region would agree to reimburse the applicant “for lost investment proceeds on half the cash it has invested at an agreed upon rate.”
The interest-related item asks the Northeast Region to “make the county whole” for any interest incurred while marketing such buildings, as well.
Any profits from selling industry-ready buildings would be set aside to first reimburse the Northeast Region for its contributions toward the project, according to the proposal.
Beaufort County developed the plan because “we are actively building speculative buildings,” said County Manager Paul Spruill.
The Northeast Region’s mission is to increase the standard of living in the northeast section of the state, according to a previous statement from the group. The organization serves 16 counties, including all those in the Daily News coverage area.
Commissioners tabled a vote on the region-wide policy because they had not had a chance to read it before their regular meeting this month. They are expected to consider it during the annual breakfast meeting at Beaufort County Community College on Thursday.