Cumberland leader reverses stance that could help bring jobs

Posted January 15, 2015

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— Cumberland County's pursuit of a chicken processing plant that could bring 1,000 jobs to the area has new life after the county commissioner who cast a swing vote on the initiative last week changed his mind.

The Cumberland County Board of Commissioners voted 4-3 against a public hearing necessary to consider a $2.5 million incentive package for Sanderson Farms. The company was considering whether to build a $95 million plant in a county-owned industrial park in Cedar Creek, east of Interstate 95.

In addition to the jobs at the plant, the company would contract with about 80 chicken farms in a five-county area to supply the plant.

At-large Commissioner Charles Evans voted against the plan last Monday, saying he didn't have answers to outstanding questions about the incentives and because the package did not include a provision that allows convicted felons to apply for the jobs that the plant would bring.

Evans said Thursday that he changed his mind after hearing from his constituency.

"I did not have all the information. I did not have all the questions answered that I needed answered," Evans said. "I feel pretty comfortable now that answers are being produced."

Another vote on the public hearing is scheduled for Jan. 20.

Sanderson Farms, which has been courted by at least one location in Virginia, hasn't said publicly if it is still considering Cumberland County.

Evans said Thursday, however, that it appears the company is still open to doing so.

"And we want to leave the door open," he said.

Residents who live near the industrial park have opposed the plant because of their concerns about several issues, including smell and noise.

However, Commissioner Jimmy Keefe has said that it is difficult to pass up 1,000 jobs, most of which would have been filled by Cumberland County residents. The jobs would have paid almost $11 an hour to start.

Under the terms of the incentives plan, Sanderson Farms would create at least 975 jobs – 60 percent of which would go to Cumberland County residents – over three years and not contract with any poultry farms within a 10-mile radius of its facility or within a mile of the Cape Fear River.

In exchange, the county would provide the company a 50 percent grantback of county property taxes to be paid over a nine-year period.


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