The North Wilkesboro commissioners unanimously adopted a new economic development incentives policy during their work session Thursday on Zoom and at the Stone Center.

The policy, if also adopted by the Wilkesboro and county elected bodies, would reward eligible businesses by calculating an incentive based on 80% of their increase in ad valorem taxes for five, six or seven years, based on a points system that factors in how many jobs were created, the amount of money invested and the wages offered by the business.

Existing or new businesses in Wilkes that open a headquarters facility, reuse a vacant building or formal industrial site, are outdoor economy-based, or occupy a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified building will receive bonus points.

A different policy exists for new or existing smaller businesses that create at least five jobs, invest at least $250,000 in taxable improvements and pay at least the average county wage as defined by the job’s North American Industry Classification System code. These businesses are eligible for a $5,000 cash payment after they complete the investment and make their first tax payment.

The policy was written by the Wilkes Economic Development Corp. (EDC) and applies to new and existing businesses opening in the towns of North Wilkesboro, Wilkesboro or elsewhere in Wilkes.

The EDC hired Crystal Morphis, an economic development consultant, to revise the county’s economic development investment policy, which was last updated in 2001. Earlier this year she met with staff members of the two towns, the county and the EDC before rewriting the policy.

The town will have to budget for the $5,000 cash incentives, Town Manager Wilson Hooper said earlier, and have a program in place for this by July 1.

Currently, businesses in Wilkes can use incentive grants for purposes that include site acquisition, site preparation, internal infrastructure and job training. The update includes language to include building uplift or renovation and machinery and equipment purchases for existing businesses, practices that are already unofficially incentivized.

The updated proposed policy lowers the investment requirement of existing businesses from $800,000 to $750,000, to be eligible for tax incentives.

Other matters

Also on Thursday, the board:

• unanimously approved the amendment of town code from “recreational hall” to “reception hall/event venue.” Valery Guevara requested the change so she can open a small event venue for parties and other such private gatherings underneath Stoney Creek Therapeutic Massage at 209 10th Street; and

• set a public hearing at 5:30 p.m. on June 8 regarding board operating procedures. The proposed changes include having no distinction between workshops and regular meetings; having a public participation comment period during both monthly meetings; and giving commissioners the ability to propose future agenda items.

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