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City, county OK tax incentives, financing for industrial park

A three-party agreement will create a 41-acre industrial park between Upward Road (top) and Crest Road (bottom).

The city of Hendersonville joined the hunt to land a company that could invest $38 million and create 150 jobs at a new manufacturing plant on 18½ acres between Upward and Crest roads near the I-26 interchange. Along with the Henderson County Board of Commissioners, the City Council on Wednesday adopted a three-party agreement designed to transform the site into an industrial park with the potential to lure two more employers.

Once the High Hope apple orchard owned by the Garrison family, the land would be developed for the new plant and potentially two other factories. The Henderson County Board of Commissioners and the Hendersonville City Council both authorized economic development incentives for the plant, code named Project Wheel. The company said it would pay workers an average wage of $39,867 plus benefits.

County commissioners on Wednesday morning approved Project Wheel's request for up to $981,750 in property tax breaks over five years on Wednesday morning and also approved an agreement to loan money for the purchase of the land.

During a special meeting on Wednesday, the City Council followed suit, authorizing tax incentives totaling $857,500 over a 10-year span. Under the terms of the tax incentive and loan agreements, the city would provide water and sewer service and require annexation of the whole tract into the city of Hendersonville. Restrictive covenants that "run with the land" will ensure that the land is developed for economic development purposes that the city, county and Partnership endorse, City Attorney Angela Beeker said.

Project Wheel is considering sites in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Mexico for a plant, said Brittany Brady, president of the Partnership.

The city and county agreed to jointly finance the purchase of the entire 41-acre Garrison tract, which the Partnership for Economic Development would market to other job-creating businesses. The Economic Investment Fund, which the Partnership formed, would borrow $1.17 million each from the city and Henderson County for a total of $2.34 million. The Economic Investment Fund has an option to buy the 41-acre site for $2,485,000.

Assistant City Manager Brian Pahle told the City Council Project Wheel would generate $1.3 million in revenue for the city over 12 years and that the entire tract if fully built out with two more plants would generate more than $3 million over the same span.

"This property, we have been working with the Partnership and EIF, will yield the possibility of three individual parcels," engineer Will Buie told the Board of Commissioners.  A tract similar to the Project Wheel parcel could attract a $40 million investment and a smaller tract could bring an investment of more than $20 million, he said. "The investment that we're talking about today would allow Project Wheel to go foward and also for two potential economic development projects as well."

Commercial Boulevard, which runs from Upward Road to the edge of the Garrison land, would be extended through the site along with water and sewer lines, Buie told the City Council on Wednesday night.

The land deal gives the county "a product we can put right in front of clients immediately that's ready to go," County Manager Steve Wyatt said. "From a strategic standpoint it's a very wise move."

"If we didn't have the 18 acres we would have lost this (Project Wheel) to another county," EIF Chair Chip Gould told commissioners.

Eight hours later, Gould thanked the City Council for adopting the three-party agreement and for its partnership in the broader goals of economic development.

The Economic Investment Fund "was founded primarily to give the Partnership more flexibility but also to find product, which is what we call land," he said. "We created this (fund) and, lo and behold, in a short period of time we were handed the Garrison property and in less than two years we've already got industry on this property."

“This purchase is a result of the public-private partnership efforts that have been ongoing since 2016," he said in a news release the Partnership issued Wednesday night after the Board of Commissioners and City Council acted. "With the topography in Henderson County, we have to work harder and smarter to gain traction with industrial sites. Once the three parties rolled up their sleeves to begin due diligence, the site became immediately more attractive and garnered interest. EIF is excited that the County and City are working together to develop an industrial park that will create quality jobs.”  

Council member Jeff Miller referred to city-county leadership that led to a five-party agreement to build the health sciences center for Wingate University and Blue Ridge Community College classes and to house the Pardee Cancer Center on the Pardee campus.

"I hope this will get us back on the right path where we're all working together," he said.

City Manager John Connet said in an interview this week that no one on the current council could recall the city granting economic development incentives in order to attract jobs.

"For seven years this has been a goal of mine to get industrial property in the city," he told the council Wednesday night. "This is an important moment in the development of our commmunity."