The Lee County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing in the coming weeks to consider four economic development projects that would bring nearly 1,500 new jobs and a staggering $2 billion plus in tax base investment.
The Sanford Area Growth Alliance issued a public notice Thursday detailing the public hearing, which will be held by the Lee County Board of Commissioners at a special called meeting on Nov. 30. The names of the companies apparently eyeing the area for expansion or relocation aren’t disclosed, but one is apparently a manufacturer looking to invest $7.5 million and create 300 jobs, and the other three are life sciences companies looking to invest a collective $2.088 billion and create 1,175 jobs.
In exchange for locating here and meeting goals regarding jobs and investment, the companies would receive incentives – grants which are paid out after the companies have paid annual property taxes – worth a total of about $86.6 million over the course of seven to 10 years.
While Lee County in recent years has enjoyed success in attracting new companies, often but not always using incentives, political approval of the new projects is not guaranteed. With Democratic Commissioner Kevin Dodson currently hospitalized with COVID-19, a vote this week to assign collateral for a second shell building at the Central Carolina Enterprise Park failed after a tie split the board’s remaining Republicans and Democrats (another motion to endorse the repeal of the 17th Amendment to the United States Constitution similarly failed after a tie vote).
Further, the board typically doesn’t vote on economic development projects of this nature at the same meeting as the public hearing, meaning a new board under Republican control (Republicans flipped the board to a 4-3 majority in this month’s election) could have the final say. The current Republicans on the Board of Commissioners have historically voted against the economic incentives, and it’s unknown whether Republican newcomer Bill Carver would join their opposition.
Reached for comment, Carver – who has not yet been sworn in – said he was aware of the proposals but was still looking at “how we’re going to proceed.”