It used to be that, whenever economic incentives requests came before the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, a major debate ensued.
Former Guilford County Commissioners Billy Yow and Steve Arnold, among others over the years, would ask why in the world struggling taxpayers should pay money to rich companies that were obviously doing very well. However, those debates have gone the way of concert crowds and handshakes as greetings, and, in recent years, the Board of Commissioners hasn’t even brought up that question.
At a Thursday, Aug. 6, meeting of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, the board considered approval of an economic development incentives grant of $597,286 for Prepac Manufacturing – a Canadian maker of ready-to-assemble furniture that announced, following the board’s approval, that it would in fact be expanding in Guilford County.
The actual vote by the commissioners to approve the incentives was taken about 24 hours later, in a very quick, special virtual meeting on Friday, Aug. 7, a delay that was required due to the county’s interpretation of current, pandemic-altered public hearing legal statutes. The board voted 7 to 0 to approve the request, with Commissioners Carlvena Foster and Justin Conrad absent from the virtual meeting.
On neither Thursday nor Friday was there any debate on the wisdom of incentives, despite the fact that many of the current commissioners emphasized their distaste for incentives when they ran for their seats on the board.
Commissioners of both parties to this day say they don’t like voting for incentives but say it is a necessary evil. They argue that the county needs jobs and they point out that other places across the country are willing to offer incentives.
At the Thursday night meeting, Greensboro Chamber of Commerce President Brent Christensen spoke on the project and said it would bring just over 200 jobs in a 5-year period including a variety of positions such as managers and machinists.
The nearly $600,000 in incentives represents about 80 percent of the property taxes that the company would owe Guilford County over the coming seven years.
Unfortunately, if you are a homeowner or a business that has been contributing to the tax base for years, you will be expected to pay 100 percent of your taxes over that same period.