City developers option land

Friday, May 9, 2008

Lewisburg's Industrial Development Board has voted to buy a purchase option on 46 acres that adjoin the city business park on Mooresville Highway.

The $5,000, six-month option is on a tract of land priced at $225,000, according to Eddie Wiles, chairman of the development board that met over lunch in City Hall on Monday.

Ralph Harder of Brentwood owns the land on Craig Moore Road northwest of the business park. The city currently has only an access easement from Craig Moore Road to the larger business park property, Wiles said.

Lewisburg Industrial Developer Terry Wallace "brought the opportunity" to buy Harder's property to the board, the board chairman said. Jim Weaver seconded Jackie Abernathy's motion to obtain a purchase option on the land.

The 180-acre business park was started about five years ago and, in recent months, it's sold 10 acres to U.S. Tank and Cryogenics, a business that refurbishes canisters for various kinds of gasses, some for medical uses. More recently, the city closed on a deal to sell 35 acres to Autom, a church supply and religious products business.

"And there's a lot of interest out there," Wiles said. "By the time you take the roads out and the property by the creek -- there had been 155 acres that were marketable."

Lewisburg's Industrial Development Board met at noon Monday and Wiles said he anticipated board Treasurer Sam Kirby would be signing the check for the purchase option on Tuesday morning.

During the early phases of developing the business park, the IDB bought a purchase option on land for the park, Wiles said.

Also during this month's IDB meeting, Faye C. Rogers, area director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development Program, outlined federal funding programs through grants and loans for facilities development in conjunction with industrial promotions.

Rogers said grants may be up to 15 percent of a project such as one that was discussed Monday, but not specifically described. Government loans for such projects now cost 4.5 percent in interest, she said.

The applicant for such federal assistance would be the municipality, not the IDB, Wiles said.

Rogers said June is when the USDA starts to assemble its funding packages, so if Lewisburg were interested, then city officials should probably take steps soon.

"Is this of interest to you all?" Rogers asked.

"It would be to me," Councilwoman Quinn Brandon replied, "but I can't speak for the rest of the council."

Brandon asked if action would be required through a special meeting since the agenda for the May meeting is being finalized and the next regularly scheduled meeting would be on June 13.

Rogers agreed to be available to meet with the council. Typically, special City Council meetings are on Tuesday afternoons, and usually a couple of weeks after the monthly session.

In other discussion Monday, Wiles and the IDB's legal counsel, Bob Binkley, briefly spoke of the board's decision to check on the status of city-authorized PILOT programs. The Payment In Lieu Of Taxes programs provide incentives for industrial development when it increases employment in a community.

In early February, IDB directors decided they should find out if businesses that were given a property tax break have met the terms of their contracts. Some contracts call for a number of employees.

It was an appropriate time to "check and see that everything is like it should be," Wiles said at the time.

Later, Binkley determined that the PILOT program contracts had various conditions, thereby adding complexity to the "due diligence" Wiles endorsed.

Monday, Wiles said consultations with more than a dozen businesses had been stalled as a result of increased activity toward development of the business park.

Wallace, the former county executive, reported on a number of prospective business park tenants to the board meeting, explaining he'd been busy with "two or three big projects."

Meanwhile, he also reported a couple of business changes such as one industry in Lewisburg that had moved to Belfast.