Law change could aid Brunswick development

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By Brian Slattery

A change to economic development funding Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law July 30 could offer Brunswick County another incentive for drawing industry.

The law that started out as House Bill 201 has several amendments, including changes to energy conservation codes for existing nonresidential buildings, clarification of stormwater impervious surface rules for redevelopment, an exemption from the North Carolina environmental protection act for reoccupying existing buildings and the change to the statute for governing the Department of Commerce Rral Economic Development Division.

The last change impacts Brunswick County.

A change to the requirements for Building Reuse Funds eases the limitations that had been in place for matching grants or loans for Tier 3 counties like Brunswick County.

Tier status is based on annual rankings by the Department of Commerce of the unemployment rate, median household income, population, population growth percentage and assessed property values for each of North Carolina’s 100 counties.

Tier 1 and Tier 2 counties are considered economically distressed to qualify them for particular grant or loan programs, including the Building Reuse Funds, which provides grants and loans to local governments to renovate vacant buildings and/or renovate, expand or construct health care facilities that will lead to the creation of new, full-time jobs.

The law now allows matching grants or loans to Tier 1 and 2, as well as rural census tracts in a Tier 3 area.

The funds are still to be used for the reuse of existing buildings or property, the demolition of buildings to use the available property or to construct or expand rural health care facilities.

Priority for the funds will go to towns or communities with less than 5,000 people.

To fit under the law’s definition of a rural census tract, the population density of the area must be less than 500 people per square mile based on the most recent census information.

Eligible projects can receive up to $10,000 per newly created full-time job. The grant awards up to $500,000 or half of the project’s cost, whichever is less.

The program requires a cash match equal to the grant request amount. The local government must contribute at least 5 percent of the cash match.

Jim Bradshaw, Brunswick County Economic Development Commission executive director said there are certain sections of the county that could benefit from the change in the law.

“East of U.S. 17, none of the tracts would qualify. But west of U.S. 17 they could be considered to qualify for building reuse and infrastructure,” he said.

Bradshaw thought the way the new allowance reads, most of the industrial buildings in the rural areas, such as the Leland Industrial Park and towns like Navassa, would qualify.

As an example, Bradshaw said the former U.S. Marine facility, which was built in 2000 and formerly used by Rampage Marine, would be a building that could apply for funds.

“If the Leland Industrial Park qualifies, that would be two or three buildings,” he said.

Bradshaw said there was a possibility the change could include the Shallotte Industrial Park. But, he added, eventually the state will create a map that will show what Tier 3 areas qualify. Only then will Brunswick County’s rural areas be confirmed as able to benefit from the change in the law.

Bradshaw said the change is there to improve buildings, but it could be used as an incentive to bring business into available buildings.

“This would help with a client looking at existing building,” he said. “It’s an added benefit especially when in competition with other states.”

The building reuse fund was previously available to Brunswick County, but was reworded to only offer funds to Tier 1 and 2 industrial projects.

“We’ve used building reuse funds for the Lockwood Folly marketplace in Supply and the Patronie’s Pizza building before they started restricting where the money goes. Now it is only used for rural areas and industrial building. Before it was also available for retail buildings,” Bradshaw said.

The law also changes the requirement for meeting energy conservation codes for existing nonresidential buildings.

The law change allows for alterations or additions to commercial structures. As long as the building is not increased in size more than 150 percent, it will not be subject to the requirements for energy efficiency and conservation that went into effect in 2011 to receive a certificate of occupancy.

Brian Slattery is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or bslattery@brunswickbeacon.com.