Information about the Bladen County Business Center, which is the model for a similar initiative sought for Wilkes County, in a Wilkes County commissioners work session Thursday.

The work session starts at 4 p.m. at the Wilkes Agricultural Center in Wilkesboro. The meeting is open to the public and will be available remotely via WebEx. See directions for making the connection online or by telephone at the end of this story.

Wilkes County government and the Wilkes Economic Development Corp. are seeking a $1.5 million grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation for constructing a building for the proposed “Wilkes Commercial Business Center.” The grant application deadline is Feb. 11.

Wilkes County Manager John Yates said the pre-fabricated 31,200-square-foot metal building would be constructed on five acres behind the Knotville Fire Station and just east of the intersection of N.C. 268 East, Airport Road and River Road-Liberty Grove Road. The EDC bought the property from Carl Renfro for $74,500 in 2016.

Wilkes EDC President LeeAnn Nixon said during the EDC board meeting Friday that the proposed new initiative should be referred to as a business center rather than a business incubator. She explained that instead of business startups, it will target businesses in existence a year or more that have proven themselves and are ready for a next phase.

Nixon added that Golden LEAF officials said they prefer not funding business incubators because some they worked with elsewhere weren’t successful.

She said local government and non-profit leaders in Bladen County will discuss how their effort, which has included 22 business centers, was carried out.

Funding for the Wilkes Commercial Business Center is being sought through the latest round of the Community-Based Grants Initiative (CBGI). Each year, Golden LEAF invites organizations in at least one of the N.C. Department of Commerce’s eight regional prosperity zones to apply for CBGI funding.

The latest round is for the Northwestern Regional Prosperity Zone, which includes Wilkes, Ashe, Alleghany, Alexander, Watauga, Caldwell, Avery, Burke, Catawba, McDowell, Mitchell and Yancey counties. Golden LEAF said in February that $11 million will be awarded to this zone in this round.

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