Economic developer: No local incentives in CSX deal

County and city governments did not provide incentives to the CSX cargo hub deal, but an economic developer doesn't rule out future contributions.

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CSX cargo terminal
ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. — The deal to bring the CSX Carolina Connector cargo hub to Edgecombe County differed with other major incentive announcements from recent years, such as ones that landed MetLife or Red Hat, in one important respect: No incentives from local governments are part of the deal – yet.

While both Rocky Mount and Edgecombe County were name-checked in Gov. Pat McCrory's news release Tuesday about CSX, local officials say they haven't committed any local grants or incentive dollars to the project.

"We didn't have anything to do with it," Rocky Mount public affairs manager Tameka Kenan-Norman said.

That's despite CSX Chief Executive Michael Ward saying the company brought the project to the area "in partnership with the State of North Carolina and Rocky Mount."

Kim Genardo, a spokeswoman for the North Carolina Department of Commerce said Tuesday, "The only local incentives are Edgecombe County."

However, Edgecombe County Manager Eric Evans said Wednesday the county has not put any incentives toward the deal, although that has not been ruled out.

"So far, the ask has not been made," he said.

And Norris Tolson, chief executive of the Carolinas Gateway Partnership, said neither the county nor any other local player has chipped in any tax rebates, grants or other incentives.

"At this stage of the game, there are no local incentives on the table," Tolson said.

The biggest local contribution came from Tolson's Carolinas Gateway group itself, which has acquired options to buy more than 550 acres in the area. Essentially, the economic development company assembled a mega-site for the proposed project without the furor that surrounded other proposed locations for the hub in Johnston County.

"We have been very, very generous with our time and effort," Tolson said.

CSX, he said, is still trying to settle on an exact footprint for the site, which will require somewhere between 450 acres and 550 acres. The company, he said, will pay for the land, rather than allowing local governments to acquire it, as is sometimes common in these sorts of deals.

"The county is not giving the land to the client," he said.

That said, Tolson did not rule out local governments eventually being called on to chip in. It would be illegal for a state incentive program to chip in after a company had declared it would would build or expand in a particular spot. State incentives may be offered only if the company declares it would go somewhere else "but for" the taxpayer-funded boon.

Rules for counties and cities are looser.

"We have discussed with our county commissioners what they might be willing to do," Tolson said. "They said, 'Talk to us when you've got a project.' Well, now we've got a project."

Asked whether Carolinas Gateway would, in fact, go back to the commissioners with a request, he said, "I don't know yet," adding that CSX hasn't yet asked for any local incentives.

Evans confirmed the county could consider an incentive package in the coming months if CSX came forward.

"As we do with all economic development projects, there has been some talk of tax incentives," he said.


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