The Greensboro City Council is holding a special meeting on Thursday, Jan. 16, to consider a unique request for a $1.7 million economic incentive.

The request is from Syngenta, and what makes the request unique is that Syngenta is requesting an economic incentive, not for a capital investment that will allow it to add to its workforce, but for a capital investment so it won’t move its operation – including 650 jobs that pay an average of $107,000 – somewhere else.

City Councilmember Justin Outling said, “This is the only time we have received such a request in my time on the City Council.”

Outling said that there were quite a few considerations, including the number of jobs, the fact that they are high paying and that bio tech is a field that is growing and the type of industry that Greensboro wants to attract.

Outling said that until recently he understood that incentives to simply retain jobs could not be granted. He said, “My understanding was they were prohibited.” However, when Fresh Market made an incentives request, Outling said that the city attorney advised the council that such incentives were legal under certain conditions.

Fresh Market was different in that to receive the economic incentive package Fresh Market has to add 53 employees to its workforce.

Outling said his understanding was that Syngenta planned to build a new $70 million facility. He said not only would that add to the tax base but it would make its current facility available for a new company.

Outling said that he been involved in numerous discussions about the request and was convinced that the incentive would “really drive their decision.” He said that since the company was bought about a year ago, the new management team had closed down several similar facilities and moved them to new locations. And he noted that being in the agri-chemical business, a good argument could be made for the company to move closer to most of its customers.

Outling said, “I don’t want to give incentives to anyone.” But he added that he had been convinced this was a worthwhile use of city dollars and planned to support the incentive request.

Guilford County and the State of North Carolina are also considering incentive requests from Syngenta.