House bill seeks more development incentives for rural areas
Legislation that made its first step forward in the House on Thursday would lower the threshold for a business expansion in a rural area to win state incentive money.Posted — Updated
"We're not going to force a company to locate where they're not interested," she said.
The state sets aside $20 million annually for JDIG grants, but Martin's proposal would remove that cap for projects in so-called Tier I counties, the poorest in North Carolina, and for so-called "high-yield" projects with very high investment and many hundreds of jobs. That would eliminate the potential of state recruiters holding back on smaller rural projects in hopes of landing larger ones that would eat up chunks of the $20 million pot, she said.
The bill also would lower the fee for a Tier I or Tier II county to apply for a JDIG grant and would change the formula for calculating which counties fall into which of the three tiers.
But Martin also called for a study in the coming months on how the tier system is used for both economic development and other programs, which could result in an overhaul of the system.
"Is that really true that we have 80 economic distressed counties?" she asked.
Some lawmakers and some development officials said the state needs to look more at individual or clusters of census tracts rather than whole counties to determine economic health, noting even Wake County has pockets of high poverty and unemployment amid its overall growth.
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