The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners approved a $500,000 industrial incentive grant for Fortron Industries during a March 24 meeting.
The grant, proposed by Wilmington Business Development, will dole out $100,000 per year for five years to Fortron.
The grant will help the company pump $50 million in capital improvements to its current facility and retain 60 existing jobs with potential to create additional jobs.
The Wilmington plant has expanded several times since opening in 1993 to meet increased demand for polyphenylene sulfide (PPS), the high-performance plastic it produces.
Scott Satterfield, CEO of Wilmington Business Development, noted that PPS is a product used daily by citizens.
“It’s a high-temperature product used in aerospace industries, consumer electronics and appliances as well as the automotive industry. We all depend on it and it’s made right here,” Satterfield said.
Fortron is among the top five taxpayers in the county, paying $451,000 in annual taxes while maintaining a $7.5 million payroll.
The grant is one of a handful of incentives approved by the board in 2013 including $875,000 to General Electric, $325,000 to Live Oak Bank and $250,000 to Castle Branch.
The board will hear results of the report by Jay Garner, charged with making recommendations to secure and sustain local industry, during an April 2 meeting.
Garner Economics, a Georgia-based company, was paid about $100,000 to complete the study. One of the expected recommendations is maintaining and growing area manufacturing.
Sneak peeks of the report have suggested it will recommend elimination of the special-use permit, the creation of an economic development department and expansion of Wilmington Business Development to add Brunswick County to the roster that already includes Pender County.
Commission Chairman Woody White said the report will guide the next 20 years of county development and invited citizen participation.
“This will generate a lot of commentary, good and bad. We might not agree, but I agree with the fact that we’re talking about it,” White said.
The board also approved a contribution of $78,312 toward the Carolina Beach inlet dredging project.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredges the inlet quarterly. Since 2012, supplemental funds from Hurricanes Irene and Sandy paid for the project. The March 2014 dredging exhausted remaining funds.
USACE requested the county split the $206,900 required for the next dredging with the N.C. Division of Water Resources. The county’s municipalities will share the cost. The City of Wilmington will vote on its share on April 2. Carolina and Kure beaches approved their portion of funding in March. Wrightsville Beach approved with a caveat: the town will not contribute to future dredging costs.
Layton Bedsole, county shore protection manager, said no plan is set for funding inlet dredging in the 2014-15 fiscal year.
“The county manager is looking into alternatives that may help us apply a dedicated funding source but those alternatives are still being considered,” Bedsole said.
Requests were also made for municipalities to consider participation in planning the 2014-15 fiscal budget. Bedsole said responses will be evaluated according to need at that time.
The N.C. Division of Water Resources is expected to continue contributing half the funds for future efforts.
White assured board support for inlet maintenance in the fiscal year 2014-15.
“As funding sources continue to migrate between federal and state dollars, it’s important that local governments are proactive to assure funding is always available for those inlets,” White said.
The board appointed members to several committees, including six members to the Comprehensive Plan Policy Recommendation Committee, part of the Public Engagement Plan approved November 2013.
Henry A. Adams, Jeff Bellows, Kayne Darrell, Dan Dawson, David Kellam and Stephanie Smith were appointed to the new committee. The legality of Dawson’s nomination was discussed — he is Vice Chairman Beth Dawson’s husband. New Hanover County attorney Wanda Copley said Ms. Dawson should recuse her vote if she would receive direct or indirect financial benefit from her husband’s appointment.
All board members supported Dawson’s nomination except for Commissioner Jonathan Barfield Jr.
The new committee will meet August, September and October 2014 to sort through and recommend draft policies.