SPRING LAKE — An executive with Cumberland County’s economic recruiting agency told county mayors on Friday that the search is on for land to build a “mega site.”
Robert Patton, executive vice president of the Fayetteville-Cumberland County Economic Development Corp., said at a meeting of the Mayors Coalition that the agency is looking for 1,000 to 2,000 acres to attract mega projects such as the recently announced Toyota battery plant in the Randolph County town of Liberty.
Patton briefed the mayors at their quarterly meeting, held at Spring Lake Town Hall. Hope Mills Mayor Jackie Warner chairs the coalition.
Other business on the agenda included a presentation by Fayetteville Technical Community College about its HOPE job-training program and updates from Fort Bragg commanders about upcoming activities on post.
Patton told CityView that the Economic Development Corp. hopes to find land that is conducive to building: fairly flat and free of wetlands but with good soil.
“Of course, it needs road access, and rail access would be the icing,” Patton said.
Finding the land, which might include multiple tracts, and making it usable could take years, perhaps a decade to get it right, Patton said. “Getting it right” includes putting in the necessary infrastructure for water, sewer and access roads.
“Having a mega site in place would make Cumberland County competitive for mega projects,” he said, again referencing the Toyota battery plant.
Patton said Cumberland County has all the ingredients for success. He noted that 7,000 service members leave Fort Bragg every year, and having quality, high-wage jobs available could entice more of them to remain in Cumberland County.
Representatives of Fayetteville Technical Community College gave an overview of its HOPE (Hope, Opportunity, Prosperity through Education) program, a public/private jobs training initiative.
Jolee Marsh, FTCC associate vice president for corporate and continuing education, said among the goals is to foster increased social and economic mobility by training students in “high demand” occupations. The program is geared to the 55% of the county’s adult population that has some college education but no degree and those with a high school diploma or less education.
The mayors also heard several presentations from representatives of Fort Bragg, who addressed the value of the local community to Fort Bragg, the renaming of the post, and upcoming activities to which the civilian public is invited.
Maj. Gen. Brian Mennes, deputy commanding general of the 18th Airborne Corps, told the mayors that Fort Bragg is part of the community and that many of its dependent children are going to local schools. Mennes explained the process of choosing Fort Liberty as the post’s new name. He said he has children who were born on Fort Bragg and suggested that the renaming of the post in no way diminishes its history and the legacy of the soldiers who served to protect this nation.
Col. John Wilcox, garrison commander at Fort Bragg, said the post continues to open its gates as wide as possible to a host of community activities, including the May 3 Fort Bragg Fair, June 1 festivities on the official renaming of Fort Bragg to Fort Liberty, and July 4 celebrations.
Mayor Warner recapped for coalition members and their staffs the arrangement with Cumberland County regarding the sharing of sales tax revenue among the municipalities and the county.
“There’s been a misunderstanding in the community,” Warner said about tax revenue distribution among county governments. She said the municipalities would not have received the money they’ve been getting since 2003 had there not been a new agreement.
Currently, the county collects sales taxes and redistributes the revenue among its towns on a per-capita, or population, basis. The county wanted to change to an ad-valorem, or tax value, basis, which is more advantageous for the county but less so for the towns.
Although the coalition members asked for a five-year extension on the agreement, the final deal keeps the tax sharing on a per-capita basis for another two years with any growth in the amount of sales tax revenue going entirely to the county. Previously, the county received 40% of growth in sales tax revenue with the remaining 60% going to the towns.
“We got an agreement. We’re not going to see growth in this year’s amount,” Warner said. “We’ve got two years to adjust our budgets. (In Hope Mills,) we have to see how we can make some cuts,” she said.
Warner thanked the county commissioners for working with the towns on the sales tax issue and said the negotiations involved a lot of “good will.”
Commissioners Chairwoman Toni Stewart, who typically meets with the coalition, did not attend Friday’s meeting.