Enterprise zones could expand exits

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — The road map to bringing new businesses to Carroll County includes a drive to add economic development incentives to two Interstate 77 exits.

With plans in place for water and sewer systems to serve developable land at Exit 8 and Exit 19, the Carroll Board of Supervisors decided to seek enterprise zone designations there, too.

County Administrator Gary Larrowe explained before a public hearing at the Carroll supervisors' meeting Nov. 16 that the enterprise zones would become part of the mix to market these places to new and expanding companies.

These state and local incentives — along with the future availability of public utilities and the high volume of traffic on the interstate — could combine to make these places even more attractive to qualifying businesses.

Carroll County and Hillsville have an enterprise zone, but Larrowe said there are no plans to make changes to that one. The idea is to add new non-contiguous areas at the two exits, as allowed by the state.

"We have been working with the Department of Housing and Community Development, so that we could expand those enterprise zones since 2006," he said. "The county is actually in charge of that expansion."

The effort involves adding 643 acres in Fancy Gap encompassing land on both sides of Interstate 77 on Chances Creek and Pottery Drive west over to Fancy Gap Highway and to the north side of Blue Ridge Parkway intersection, according to maps included in the supervisors' board packets.

Plus, there's the 1,134 acres at Exit 19 at Coulson Church and Airport roads on the west side of the interstate and east to the large, graded, ready-for-development tract   already known as Wildwood.

The 2,058-acre enterprise zone at Exit 14 takes in the Carroll County Industrial Park and other county and private land on both sides of the interstate interchange, plus land near the intersection of Beaver Dam Road, Sylvatus Highway and Floyd Pike, among other places.

Carroll officials sought to put in as much land into the proposed enterprise zones as the state would allow, Larrowe said. "We're maxed out as far as that goes with modifications."

That doesn't mean that the county officials couldn't modify these proposed areas in the future.

What about the ongoing work to provide water and sewer and attract businesses to Exit 1 in Lambsburg, Supervisor Manus McMillian wondered. Could there be an enterprise zone there?

"We can only have two that could be non-contiguous, so we couldn't have a third one," Larrowe answered.

Otherwise, Carroll County officials would have request another enterprise zone designation from the state, he added.

Enterprise zones are available to areas with low employment to give a number of incentives for businesses to locate within those zones, Larrowe explained.

"We thought the largest potentials would end up being Exit 8 and Exit 19, associated with Exit 14, so we'd have three of four exits covered."

Enterprise zone incentives in Carroll include breaks on building permit and zoning fees, a decreasing "rebate" on machinery and tools and real estate taxes over five years, public water and sewer rate credits and a grant of $250 for each full-time job created by a new or expanding business locating within the zones. Larrowe said that businesses must meet qualifications to be eligible for enterprise zone benefits.

"You could not open up... something very small with no employment and qualify for enterprise zones and incentives," he said. "So you'd actually have to qualify before there would be any incentives.”

No citizens spoke at the public hearing.

McMillian made a motion to approve the resolution to apply enterprise zone designations, and Supervisor Tom Littrell seconded.

All the supervisors voted yes.