Village Considers Incentives for Downtown Businesses
Start small and simple — that is Natalie Dean’s mantra when it comes to a plan for economic business incentives provided by the Pinehurst Village Council.
Dean, the assistant village manager who serves as the downtown manager for the newly created Village Center Enhancement Committee, expects to recommend to the council this month the creation of a 50-50 match program that could be used by businesses on the first floor of downtown buildings.
“I would say make the use of it pretty broad so it can be for whatever they need,” Dean said.
Dean said she will likely recommend allocating $20,000 in next year’s budget that could be split into four or five smaller reimbursement grants for existing or new businesses.
“We want to start small with something that is easy to administer, and then as we develop and mature, we can possibly expand the program,” she said.
The goal for Dean and the committee is to explore new ways to increase employment, expand the tax base and raise the standard of living. One of those ways is possibly through business incentives.
Dean presented a report to the council in late March that details a wide variety of incentive options that it could explore.
When compiling her report, Dean said she was surprised to learn how many municipalities utilize development incentives for businesses. According to the report, 41.5 percent of the 217 municipalities that responded to a UNC School of Government survey indicated they used incentive programs as a business tool.
“I didn’t realize how widespread across the state economic incentives are,” she said. “You just don’t hear a lot about them. Incentive is kind of a dirty word in the eyes of some.”
Dean called the village “infants in the economic development stage of life” but said she doesn’t feel like the village is behind the curve when it comes to incentives.
The three most commonly used economic development incentives used by North Carolina municipalities include capital investment, new jobs created and new tax revenue generated. Other tools that received a greater response included building and site inventory, website/community profile, partnership with chamber of commerce, regional partnerships and responding to prospect inquiries.
The North Carolina Main Street Program, on which the Village Center Enhancement Center is modeled, utilizes a variety of redevelopment incentives, including facade grant programs, revolving loan programs, rental or business assistance grant programs and signage grant programs.
There are 65 Main Street Communities in North Carolina. Forty-four of those have some type of direct economic incentive program. Twenty percent offer multiple incentives.
The village currently offers two incentive programs, a community appearance grant, which is a program to help existing businesses make exterior improvements, and a green building incentive that offers rebates of certain permit fees for building environmentally friendly structures.
Pat Corso, executive director of Partners in Progress, says changing economic times are forcing communities to take ownership of their own economic interests and be more proactive in bringing businesses and customers to their respective towns.
“That is an incredibly positive change,” Corso said. “Communities want to grow, they want to promote themselves, and they want to see economic growth.”
Contact Tom Embrey at email@example.com.
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