GUILFORD COUNTY — The Guilford County Board of Commissioners approved economic development incentive grants Monday night for High Point’s downtown catalyst project and voted to help High Point minority- and women-owned businesses.
The board voted unanimously for a $100,000 economic development incentive grant for the High Point Equity Project, aimed at helping minority- and women-owned businesses. Vice Chairman Carlvena Foster made the motion to approve the request with the High Point Community Foundation serving as fiscal agent.
The downtown catalyst project stirred up more questions and concerns as board members voted 7-2 to approve the motion made by board member James Upchurch. The grant would pay $350,000 per year, starting in fiscal year 2022 and continuing for 20 years for a total of up to $7 million. Commissioners Justin Conrad and Alan Perdue voted against the grant request.
The grant will be used to support new development and not for existing debt, Upchurch said. During fiscal years 2022-26, the annual grant will be paid only when there is an increase in taxable real estate value. After that, the annual grant will be paid only in fiscal years when the increase in the rolling five-year average taxable value in the defined area is 3% or greater. Also, High Point will report to the county how the grant amount has been spent no later than June 30 each year.
Board members Kay Cashion and Carly Cooke asked for an amendment to specify that existing debt does not include costs of the multipurpose stadium, which opened in 2019, or any other project.
“With the goal in mind that we would like this investment to go toward new growth and new development, not some things that have already been achieved,” Cooke said. “I know I have received comments and concerns from constituents about our potential support of the stadium. This is not an incentive to support the stadium that is already completed.”
County Manager Michael Halford said the grant could be used for public infrastructure improvements within the catalyst area to encourage new development. In addressing how the county may benefit, Halford noted the first five years of the grant must show a positive increase in taxable value, and the remaining years have to show at least a 3% increase in taxable value in order for the incentive to be paid.
“If you look over the life of the incentive, the additional county tax revenue looks to be about $15.2 million or so. Obviously if there’s more investment in the area it would go up,” Halford said.
With the incentive cost at $7 million of that, the county stands to net about $8 million, Halford said.
Board member Carolyn Coleman also raised concerns about whether the money could be used for a parking deck or lighting to support the stadium. “I think we have to be careful,” Coleman said. “We’re not building a parking deck for any other city. Why would we go and build one for High Point?”
Chairman Skip Alston said the city of High Point has not shared plans for building a parking deck. “We don’t know what the demand is going to be,” Alston said.
Conrad said such unknowns are exactly why he opposes the grant request. “We don’t know what the money’s going to,” Conrad said. “All we know is we’re putting up $7 million.”
The discussion continued as High Point Mayor Jay Wagner and City Manager Eric Olmedo answered questions about the catalyst project and why it was needed.
“The furniture market is a blessing and a curse for the city of High Point,” Wagner said. “The Market is the single biggest economic event in the state of North Carolina every year. But what it has done over the course of our history is that it has robbed us of the vibrant type of downtown a lot of cities have and that we feel can make us competitive in the current economic environment.”
Wagner detailed ongoing downtown development projects, including a food hall, office buildings, a 250-apartment complex and a children’s museum.
“We feel it’s very important from a philosophical standpoint that the city of High Point and Guilford County work together as partners in economic development,” Wagner said. “Besides the money that’s really what this is all about, whether we can commit to work together because when we benefit you benefit.”
The county has collected about $550,000 in new tax revenue since the stadium was built, Wagner said. “This thing is already paying for itself, for y’all.”
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GUILFORD COUNTY — Public education made another advance to some semblance of normalcy Monday as sixth- and ninth-grade students returned to in-person classroom instruction for the first time since the local onset of the coronavirus pandemic 11 months ago.
Guilford County Schools will phase in middle and high school students in the coming weeks. Kindergarten and elementary school students already were brought back previously.
Students in grades seven, 10 and 12 will return the week of March 1. Students in grades eight and 11 will return the week of March 8.
Parents who want their children to continue learning remotely retain that option.
Middle and high school students will go to class in a pair of groups two days a week — one group will take in-person instruction Mondays and Tuesdays and the other Thursdays and Fridays, with Wednesday set aside for deep cleaning of schools. During the three days when students aren’t in class, they will learn remotely.
The goal of the Guilford County Board of Education and school district leadership centers on having all students learn in a classroom setting through the end of the 2020-21 academic year later this spring.
With the return of middle and high school students, the school district wants to streamline health screenings at schools. Guilford County Schools set up an online platform that took effect Monday.
The new platform allows parents or guardians to certify that students are healthy by answering screening questions using any computer or mobile device prior to boarding a school bus or arriving at school.
Each morning, the primary parent and student will receive an email from CrisisGo with a link to the health-screening questions. Separate emails will be sent for each student in the household.
Once the questions are completed and submitted through a digital link, the family member will receive a green entry code notification. The family member will then show the code to the school bus driver before boarding or to an educator upon arrival at school. Staff will take student temperatures upon their arrival at school.
“Our goal is to streamline the screening process as much as we can while still ensuring we are following all health protocols,” GCS Superintendent Sharon Contreras said. “Using technology should help speed up the process for everyone, especially at our secondary schools, which serve larger groups of students.”
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ARCHDALE — An Archdale upholstered furniture manufacturer is seeking incentives to assist with a possible expansion of its business.
Lancaster Customworks Inc. is considering constructing a new building of up to 55,000 square feet and adding at least 20 jobs to accommodate its growth, according to the Randolph County Economic Development Corp.
If it goes forward, the project is eligible for up to $66,500 in cash grant incentives, with $21,000 from Archdale and $45,500 from Randolph County, if both approve agreements with the company.
The Archdale City Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing tonight on the company’s request, with the Randolph County Board of Commissioners to follow next week.
After several years of double-digit sales growth, the company has outgrown its current facility at 402 Interstate Drive, according to the EDC.
There is no room for expansion at the current location, so the company has identified three possible sites for a new facility. The top two contenders are a site on Archdale Road next to the Archdale Industrial Park and a site in High Point, according to the EDC.
If the Archdale Road site is selected, the full investment in the project would be near $3.5 million, including land acquisition, ground-up construction and new machinery and equipment.
To receive the incentives, the company would have to retain its entire full-time workforce of 21 employees and create 20 new full-time jobs over five years with an average annual wage of $46,000.
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TRIAD — Investigators are examining whether fires at a pair of Hardee’s restaurants in High Point and Randleman that started within about four hours of each other are related.
A fire at the Hardee’s in northwest High Point early Saturday caused minimal damage, but a blaze later Saturday virtually destroyed the Hardee’s in Randleman.
The High Point Hardee’s fire started about 5:15 a.m., while the Randleman fire started shortly after 9:45 a.m. They involved malfunctions with the water heaters in the two buildings, fire investigators told The High Point Enterprise.
High Point Fire Department Assistant Chief Mike Levins said investigators are studying whether there’s a problem with types of equipment or with work on the equipment at the two restaurants.
“Is it a coincidence this happened at two Hardee’s? We need to determine either way,” Levins said.
The Randleman fire left the building gutted and a total loss, with damages estimated at $800,000 to $1.5 million, Assistant Chief and Fire Marshal Michael Smith said. The building was evacuated and no one was hurt, he said.
The Randleman Fire Department has consulted with the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office about the fire there, he said. Representatives with the State Fire Marshal’s Office and U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms also have been involved.
“We are not ruling out anything at this time,” Smith said.
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