On a party-line vote, the Lee County Board of Commissioners approved an incentive deal Monday that could bring 196 jobs and $126 million in tax base investment to the area.

The board’s four Democrats voted in support of the measure, which could result in an as-yet unnamed life sciences company purchasing the county’s spec building off Colon Road in the Central Carolina Enterprise Park in exchange for a $3.125 million property tax rebate over seven years. The board’s three Republicans all opposed the deal.

Other than project information from County Manager John Crumpton and a public comment from Bob Joyce, the economic development director for the Sanford Area Growth Alliance, there was little discussion about the merits of the project itself at Monday’s meeting.

The commissioners who voted against the project – Republicans Arianna Del Palazzo, Andre Knecht and Kirk Smith – asked a few questions about the impact such a project would have on area schools and whether the company would pose any kind of threat to Pfizer, which in 2019 announced a half billion dollar investment and 300 new jobs at a gene therapy operation of its own in Sanford. The county’s newest elementary school, W.B. Wicker, opened in August well under capacity, and local economic developers have said they expected the Pfizer deal to attract other life sciences companies.

The portion of Monday’s meeting appears in the video below from about 22:14 to about 26:55 in the video below:

The Sanford City Council will take up the same matter tonight, considering whether to offer an additional $2.42 million in property tax rebates to the unnamed company. The 196 jobs will pay an average annual wage of $88,000.

Assuming that vote passes, the deal will not be official until the unnamed company makes a final decision. At Monday’s meeting, Joyce said he expects things to move fast.

“We would like to recommend that you approve this performance-based grant and allow us to transmit that to the company in the morning,” he said. “And then they expect to make a decision very quickly.”

If the company chooses to locate in Lee County, it would be the third consecutive jobs announcement since mid 2019, when Bharat Forge agreed in September to bring 460 jobs and $170 million in tax base investment to Lee County. Pfizer’s announcement, which did not require any additional tax incentive from state or local government, came a month earlier.