Plant, jobs wait on ‘Plan B’

Published 7:00 am Thursday, June 14, 2007

By Staff
Developers may challenge grant amount
News Editor
A smaller-than-expected grant has created a foggy future for Impressions Marketing Group’s Washington plant — but its manager says the company has “no intention” of pulling up stakes.
The Beaufort County Committee of 100 sought about $3 million from Golden LEAF, which provides grants to tobacco-dependent and economically distressed counties, to go toward Impressions’ building upgrades. The nonprofit committee, which exists to entice economic development in Beaufort County, received $1.1 million for Impressions. That’s the largest amount given to any county last week — but not enough.
The trouble, Richter said, is that Golden LEAF officials used a “two-year old formula” to decide Beaufort County’s grant amount. That equation makes the county look wealthier than it is, giving it a Tier 3 status on the state’s economic scale of poorness. Beaufort County is classified as a Tier 1, the poorest in the state, based on provisions made just for it. Those provisions say that if a county has fewer than 50,000 people and a poverty rate of at least 19 percent, it’s automatically poor.
Impressions, a manufacturing company that makes display cases and signs for retail stores, is housed in the former Hamilton Beach plant on Springs Road. The building is more than 40 years old and in need of upgrades, according to Thompson.
The Committee of 100 had plans to acquire the building from the City of Washington and to finance the $3.7 million renovations with a combination of grants.
Thompson said Tuesday that Beaufort County requested the amount it did from Golden LEAF based on a formula on its Web site.
Impressions, headquartered in Lorton, Va., plans to expand its Beaufort County operation, adding 120 jobs and investing $3.25 million here in the next three years. The expansion will be funded in part by a $240,000 state grant that was announced last month.
Thompson wouldn’t be specific about what he intends to do to keep Impressions going in Beaufort County.