Local Budgets Allocate Thousands Of Dollars For Economic Development

By Emma Dill, posted Jun 19, 2024
Budgets approved this week by Wilmington and New Hanover County leaders included thousands of dollars in funding for ongoing economic incentives and partnerships.

The budgets allocate funds to local companies that include Live Oak Bank, MegaCorp Logistics and GE Vernova, along with an array of other economic development agencies and organizations. Approvals of these 2024-2025 fiscal year budgets come ahead of the July 1 approval deadline for all North Carolina municipalities.

On Monday, the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners approved the county’s next fiscal year budget in a 3-2 vote. Commissioners Jonathan Barfield and Rob Zapple voted against approval, citing concerns about funding cuts and the unfunding of Port City United.

County leaders held a required public hearing ahead of Monday’s vote on the county’s economic development and economic incentive agreements. 

Funding for economic development and incentives will come from the county’s general fund and aims to “increase the population, taxable property, agricultural industries, employment, industrial output or business prospects for New Hanover County,” Board Chair Bill Rivenbark said. 

Several local leaders addressed the board, with some asking the county to sustain or increase funding levels for their organizations.

Wilmington Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Natalie English thanked the county for its continued funding and investments in the chamber’s efforts to retain and grow small businesses.

“We can count hundreds of jobs and a couple of millions of dollars in investment … most of that is existing businesses,” she said.

Liz Scanlon, executive director of the Wilmington Symphony Orchestra, asked county leaders to consider increased funding for the organization to help fund its Fourth of July concert. The group currently receives just over $13,000 in county funds and around $20,000 from the city of Wilmington to help cover the $70,000 cost of putting on the concert, Scanlon said.

“Not only is it an economic driver,” she told the board of commissioners, “but it’s something for our community, our culturally rich community.”

Other speakers included Dan Brawley, chief instigating officer of the Cucalorus Film Festival, and Girard Newkirk, cofounder and CEO of Genesis Block. Both highlighted the ongoing economic impacts of their organizations across New Hanover County.

Twelve economic development agencies and local organizations are slated to receive funding from New Hanover County in the next fiscal year. Wilmington Business Development is set to receive the highest amount of funding with more than $298,400. The Wilmington Regional Film Commission will receive nearly $159,000, the Greater Wilmington Chamber of Commerce is budgeted to receive close to $132,000 and Wilmington Downtown Inc. is set to receive $66,700. 

The eight other groups will receive smaller amounts, ranging from $27,300 to just over $3,000, and include the Southeastern Economic Development Commission, Friends of Fort Fisher and the Cape Fear Council of Governments Continuum of Care, among others.

Six companies could receive payments from the county through previously approved performance-based incentive agreements. The Wilmington Trade Center could get up to $1.12 million in the next fiscal year while GE Vernova could receive $250,000 in county funds. MegaCorp Logistics and Live Oak Bank could both receive $60,000 in incentives while Vantaca could get $24,000 and Port City Logistics could receive $13,500.

The city of Wilmington’s recommended budget also sets aside thousands for economic incentives and partnerships. A second reading of the city’s budget was approved Tuesday by the Wilmington City Council.

The budget allocates just over $358,000 to fund “economic driver partners.” That includes nearly $138,000 for the Wilmington Regional Film Commission, just over $114,000 for Wilmington Business Development and just over $106,000 for Wilmington Downtown Inc.

Another $228,500 is allocated toward 10 economic development agencies with cultural and recreation draws. Funding ranges from $50,000 to $2,500 and includes the Arts Council, the Downtown Business Alliance, Genesis Block and the YWCA Lower Cape Fear.

The city’s budget includes $340,000 in potential economic incentives: $155,000 for "miscellaneous incentives," $50,000 for GE Vernova, $40,000 for both Live Oak Bank and MegaCorp Logistics, $30,000 for Wrightsville Beach Galleria, $16,000 for Vantaca and $9,000 for Port City Logistics.

The Wilmington City Council also maintains $150,000 in economic development contingency funds that can be used to cover “unforeseen funding requests” during the coming fiscal year.
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