Local News

Durham Considers Casting Wider Net to Lure Business Downtown

Posted March 8, 2007 9:49 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2007 8:20 a.m. EST

Durham's downtown could get bigger. The city is looking at using the same incentive program it has had to bring in business investment, but casting the lures over a larger area.

Officials said the programs, which offers to match from 1 percent to 16 percent of a new business’s investment in Durham, have been working. Many storefronts along Main Street are back open for business. High-tech companies now call downtown Durham home.

Ad agency McKinney moved to the Bull City from Raleigh two years ago. One reason for the move: the urban feel.

McKinney CEO Brad Brinegar said there was another reason, however: business incentives.

“I think it played a role in a sense (that) it was a strong commitment from the city to demonstrate they wanted companies like us,” Brinegar said.

The incentives are one of the reasons the city has maintained a 15 percent vacancy rate in the downtown core area, a performance on par with most other cities.

Now, city leaders are considering expanding the policy to include neighborhoods that sit on the edge of the skyline.

Alan Delisle, Durham’s economic development director, said that encouraging businesses to move to the expanded downtown area could be a win-win for everyone.

City Council member Mike Woodard sounded a cautious note.

“I just want to make sure we maximize the citizen's tax dollars,” Woodard said.

Some council members question giving to big companies when little ones are struggling. McKinney's Brinegar said that when it comes to downtowns and businesses, though, there is a beneficial domino effect.

“I think downtown Durham in five years will be absolutely awesome,” Brinegar said.

That is the hope of the people backing the incentive-expansion proposal, which the city council is expected to vote on at its next meeting.