Staff photo by Emmy Errante
A car makes a left turn onto Airlie Road on Monday, Feb. 18, causing traffic congestion on the Heide Trask drawbridge.
Castle Branch to create 400 jobs
Wilmington City Council voted this week to restrict left-hand turns for traffic at the intersection of Airlie Road and Wrightsville Avenue at the base of the Heide Trask Drawbridge until four-lane traffic on the drawbridge is resorted. The decision was unanimous during council’s Feb. 19 meeting.
Councilwoman Laura Padgett introduced the resolution supporting a pending town of Wrightsville Beach resolution to also prohibit left turns at the intersection of Airlie and Wrightsville for that phase of the drawbridge construction, which is scheduled for completion in April 2013.
“There have been accidents at this construction site,” Padgett said. “The [North Carolina Department of Transportation] and even more strongly, the town of Wrightsville Beach, believe that limiting these turns will make this site safer.”
Padgett introduced this resolution after the Wilmington Metropolitan Planning Organization Traffic Advisory Committee identified safety concerns and sent a letter to the NCDOT.
Airlie traffic can make use of Stokley Road or the western access to Airlie Road near the Bradley Creek bridge.
The council meeting began with a presentation by New Hanover County Commissioner Woody White, during which he called for the improvement of communication between the city and the county. He noted the county had recently approved $250,000 in incentives for Castle Branch, a background screening and investigative services company, to open its national headquarters in Wilmington. Castle Branch, founded locally by Bret Martin in 2002, moved in 2009 from an office in the Cotton Exchange to a 30,000-square-foot office building on Sir Tyler Drive in Mayfaire. In July 2012, WWAY reported that the company estimated its employee count would increase to 300 in the coming year.
To qualify for incentives from the city, businesses must meet a $5 million capital investment and create at least 75 new jobs. Castle Branch has announced it will make an initial capital investment of $9 million and create 400 new jobs. Reached for comment on Wednesday, Castle Branch said it would have no comment.
The proposed Castle Branch grant would be for $50,000 every year for five years. The grant would not be issued until the certificate of occupancy is issued, and the company has shown capital investments and job creation levels consistent with its projections.
Paige Freeman, a local leader for Americans for Prosperity, spoke against offering incentives to Castle Branch.
Americans for Prosperity is a conservative political advocacy group. Its stated mission is “educating citizens about economic policy and mobilizing citizens as advocates in the public policy process.”
“We have a wonderful tax situation [in North Carolina] now,” Freeman said. “Maybe we should seriously consider not giving a quarter million of tax dollars for something that may happen, anyway.”
Councilman Kevin O’Grady expressed mixed feelings.
“There’s a sense that they’re already here and they’re likely to stay, but that’s just an opinion,” O’Grady said. “How bad would that be if we misjudged that and didn’t get the 400 jobs here? The $50,000, which we’ll get back in property taxes, are a small bet against the benefit.”
O’Grady said the issue of incentives is always controversial, but Castle Branch has shown a great track record in Wilmington, and the white-collar jobs created by the company would provide employment that could keep graduates from the University of North Carolina Wilmington in town.
Council voted unanimously to proceed with authorizing the grant to Castle Branch.