County talks projects, modifies Enviva agreement
by Chris Berendt Staff Writer
County officials discussed a number of existing and potential new economic development projects during a closed session Thursday, ultimately taking no action in open session except to modify some language in a standing incentive agreement with Enviva LP, a wood-pellet manufacturer considering a location in northern Sampson.
The Sampson County Board of Commissioners agreed last month to provide incentives to Enviva Pellets Sampson LLC to locate at Exit 355 off I-40, putting the county in the running for a plant that would bring about $100 million in taxable investment, 79 direct jobs and a much-needed boost to the local economy.
The incentive agreement states that 50 percent of the county property taxes paid by the company for the proposed facility would be returned through performance-based grant-back incentives, meaning the company would receive direct incentives of $2,445,854, half the taxes it would have to pay in the first 10 years. County tax revenues would equal $4.9 million for the first 10 years, which would amount to between $1.5 million and $1.7 million after the proposed grant-backs and other incentives, including $523,425 in site development costs to be reimbursed to the company, are factored in.
Prior to last month’s approval of the incentive agreement, the county board, at the company’s request, tacked on an additional grant-back incentive totaling $176,874 for the construction of gas lines, contingent on the company signing a contract to buy gas from Piedmont Natural Gas and documentation verifying the amount was spent for gas line construction.
On Thursday, the board authorized a change in the language of the agreement with regard to those reimbursements for the costs of installing the natural gas line. The contract, as originally drafted, allowed for the grant-back of half of those costs in years 1 and 2.
“Enviva advised the county that the natural gas line may not be needed at first, so the request was to amend that section of the incentive agreement that referred to grant backs for the natural gas line in years 1 and 2,” said assistant county manager Susan Holder. That will be changed to “during the incentive period” to allow for grant-backs should the gas line be needed in the later years of the agreement.
All contractual stipulations of the county with regard to the natural gas line still apply.
The Enviva project would bring an investment of between $95 million and $117 million in taxable property, as well as 79 direct jobs at an average salary of $37,000. Enviva has estimated another 130 indirect jobs in the forest supply and logistics chain, as well as 300 contractor and project crew jobs during construction. Enviva also estimated about $35 million in purchases will be made in the region, primarily in the logging and forestry industry.
Enviva’s proposed 500,000-metric ton wood pellet production facility would utilize wood biomass feedstock from the region. Loggers, foresters and truckers all urged the board to do everything it could to bring Enviva to Sampson — the board heeded that call.
And the Enviva incentives were followed up this month by a unanimously-approved rezoning request by Barnhill Contracting Company, which intends to build an asphalt plant on N.C. 24 just outside of Roseboro. Both projects have been touted by county officials for the boosts in tax revenue and jobs they will bring.
Even before an incentive agreement was reached, commissioners approved providing a 12-month option to Enviva Holdings LP for the 180-acre stretch at I-40’s Exit 355. However, the board was quick to note that an option and incentives agreement did not mean a formal site announcement for Sampson was a foregone conclusion.
“This does not mean the plant is coming,” said board chairman Billy Lockamy. “We are in competition with two other counties and I hope our incentives look well enough that they will come.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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