Thursday, June 13, 2024

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New economic incentives project for industrial park

A long-vacant spec building built about two years ago by the Samet Corporation across from the Walmart distribution center is about to get a tenant, The Alamance News has learned.

Two local governments (Mebane and Graham) were on the verge of conducting public hearings that might reveal some information about the project. The cities of Graham and Mebane and Alamance County government established the park and share equally in tax revenues generated from it.

A public notice published by the city of Mebane in a nearby daily newspaper specified that the public hearing at the city council’s Monday (August 1) meeting would include “a proposal to extend economic development incentive grants for the location and upfit of an existing building in the City of Mebane.”

Mebane also indicated an intention “to waive certain permit and inspection fees” for the project, a frequent benefit that the city has offered in many previous incentive projects.

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But the hearing “is no longer scheduled,” according to Mebane city manager Chris Rollins, who did not elaborate Wednesday on when the hearing might be re-set or any clues about the type of business envisioned.

And no hearing or announcement is included on the agenda for the county commissioners, who also meet on Monday, August 1.

Meanwhile, the city of Graham also postponed a scheduled hearing, apparently for the same project, for its next meeting, on August 9.

The Alamance News learned that the “existing building” referred to in Mebane’s hearing notice is a 134,336-square foot shell building completed by the Samet Corporation in about 2020 on roughly 21.94 acres at 2890 Senator Ralph Scott Parkway.

The building is located across from the Walmart distribution center, the first tenant in the industrial park; the site is on the Mebane side of the industrial park.

The only other “existing building” in the industrial park that is not occupied is the former Prescient building at 2125 Senator Ralph Scott Parkway. It is also a 135,000-square-foot-building where 83 people had been employed until earlier this month. The company announced in June its plans to close that location, which has also been sold for $14.8 million to a limited partnership company called Exeter 2125 Senator Ralph Scott in Radnor, Pennsylvania, according to documents that have been filed with the county’s Register of Deeds to consummate the transaction.

Both Graham and Mebane, as well as county government, share revenues from the property taxes generated from industries in the industrial park – regardless of which city contains the actual site of a particular plant or facility.

Various sources told the newspaper that the prospective business is engaged is a combination of technology and distribution.

Distribution centers have been a popular category in the industrial park, now home to distribution centers for Walmart, the German grocer Lidl, and Amazon; a large distribution center for UPS is now under construction in the same industrial park.

Much whispered discussion questioned whether the project’s nickname, “Project Thunderbolt,” could hint toward a division of Intel by the name of Thunderbolt.

In the event consideration of the project is rescheduled, it could ultimately generate the first pitch for financial incentives to reach the commissioners since they narrowly rejected a request for funds from Lotus Bakeries in April of 2021. In that instance, the commissioners deadlocked 2-to-2 on a proposal to subsidize the prospective expansion of a facility that the Belgian confectioner had already been operating in Mebane.

Despite the support of John Paisley, Jr., the chairman of Alamance County’s commissioners, and the board’s vice chairman Steve Carter, Lotus’ request for incentives failed to pass muster with commissioners Bill Lashley and Pam Thompson. The pair’s opposition was enough to doom the company’s hopes for a county government subsidy after the recusal of newly-installed commissioner Craig Turner, who abstained from the vote because he works for a law firm that has provided legal representation for Lotus.

Lotus’ quest for public funds received a much warmer reception from Mebane’s city council, which went on to approve the proposed outlay – marking the third time it had signed off on incentives for Lotus since the company announced its plans to set up a production facility in Mebane in 2016.

A newer request for incentives, also by Lotus, was approved by Mebane’s city council earlier this year, but no similar or parallel request was made to the county commissioners.

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