Lincoln County’s economy is improving. Unemployment is down and incomes are up. But, that prosperity also means less state money can go toward luring new jobs. WFAE’s Duncan McFadyen explains.
Money talks when it comes to getting a company to open a new operation, says Lincoln County chamber president Ken Kindley.
“When you can offer more incentives, it opens people’s eyes and ears more,” he says.
So when a state tax credit a company would get for moving to Lincoln County falls more than $4,000 per job, Kindley takes notice.
“It puts our Lincoln Economic Development Association in an awkward position with having to deal with industries that come in.”
That’s because Lincoln County is now among the 20 most prosperous in the state, according to the 2014 list from the North Carolina Commerce Department of commerce. The state divides its 100 counties into three development tiers, with tier 3 being the best and tier 1 the worst. The list is based on unemployment, income, population growth, and property values. The better a county is doing, the less money the state will give.
New employers who created at least 10 jobs in 2013, when Lincoln County was in Tier 2, qualified for a $5,000-per-job tax credit. In 2014, the threshold to qualify for the credit goes up to 15 jobs, and the credit goes down to $750 per job. Kindley calls that “peanuts.”
“If you’re not going to offer any more money than that," he says, "you really just need to do away with tier 3.”
He says for example, back in 2009 when Apple was looking to build a server farm in the North Carolina foothills, Lincoln County was in Tier 3. Apple decided to build just north of the line in Catawba County, which was Tier 2.
Of course, the reasoning is that counties who are doing better can offer more incentives themselves, and there’s nothing to stop Lincoln County from doing just that. Except of course, finding that money in the county budget.