City working with IDB for employment

Friday, March 19, 2010

Lewisburg's City Council and its Industrial Development Board are scheduled for a brainstorming session on Tuesday afternoon, according to the IDB chairman.

"We're having a workshop. We haven't met together in some time, so it's time to get together and share ideas and support Terry (Wallace, the industrial development director) in what he's doing to recruit industry for the city," IDB Chairman Eddie Wiles said Wednesday.

The two panels are to convene at 4:15 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall, 131 E. Church St.

Economic hard times, a 20.3 percent unemployment rate for the county, and no light at the end of the tunnel are the motives.

"We all know the problem," Wiles said. "With unemployment at 19-20 percent, jobs are at the top of everyone's list of what to do.

"I think it's going to be a very informal session," he said. "We're all on the same team."

One of the team players is Bob Binkley, the IDB's attorney, who spoke up during this month's board meeting, offering to draft legislation to solve a situation faced by a new industry here.

The parent company of the new candle factory and the religious products' shipping and receiving operation in the Business Park might flourish more if it could get a Small Business Administration Loan. To do so, a business must hold the title to the property.

However, those businesses have a tax abatement contract with the city that requires the city to hold the deed.

Binkley said other communities face the same situation and so he's offered to draft legislation that would permit both programs, something that's done in other states.

Asked if that offer might be discussed Tuesday, Wiles replied, "Possibly. It's certainly something to look at. There's nothing we would not want to discuss."

The price of land is another issue.

Prissy Nance is one of the former Sanford pencil factory workers who lost her job because the giant corporation decided to discontinue some products and transfer manufacture of art pencils to Bogotá, Columbia.

Sanford employed 355 people at its factory here and Lewisburg was reportedly one of the locations for an ink factory to be built by Sanford. The business chose Manchester because land was made available at little or no cost.

"I think Lewisburg messed up by not working with Sanford for that place," Nance said.

Lewisburg officials decided against making land in the business park available for free.

"Someone else was willing to give land and that's what the competition is doing," Wiles said, acknowledging the situation that drew Nance's ire. "That's the environment out there and what we're competing against...

Nance's comment was "hitting the nail on the head," Wiles said.

Meanwhile, the City Council "has been nothing but supportive of the IDB," Wiles said.

The board is appointed by the council. The industrial recruiter is a city employee and not an employee of the IDB. The board is an advisory panel for the City Council. The IDB typically meets at noon on the first Monday of each month. The Council meets at 6 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month.