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Tax incentives for brewery on Monday’s Board Agenda

March 3. By Dave Vieser and Dave Yochum. It looks like Cornelius will provide economic development incentives through tax abatements to facilitate Olde Mecklenburg Brewery’s likely $10 million investment in a manufacturing site on Zion Avenue.

The Charlotte based craft brewer plans to open a new brewery in the 51,000 square-foot building on Zion Avenue formerly occupied by MacLean Curtis, which moved i to Mooresville last year. The proposal under consideration by the Town Board would set the hearing for Monday March 20 at 7 pm.

“The purpose of the hearing would be to receive public comments on proposed economic development incentives to the brewery in relation to their establishment of a new manufacturing facility in Cornelius,” said Planning Director Wayne Herron. “The project will consist of a capital investment of approximately $10 million.”

Herron said the grant under consideration would cover a 10-year period and would be equal to 90 percent of new ad valorem tax revenue created by the development.

The town’s ad valorem tax rate is .255, but total incentives are expected to be less than $2.3 million over 10 years. Details are under tight wraps at Town Hall, and it looks like incentives will be offset by expenses OMB will incur in straightening out Zion Avenue. The road, which runs parallel to Main Street, makes sharp left and sharp right turns on its way from the Antiquity mixed-use project to the northern end of Zion.

Economic development is a contact sport in North Carolina which has battled with South Carolina over new business and retention. Tax incentives help recruit and retain existing businesses that want to expand, of course, but they sometimes rub existing businesses—who are not necessarily expanding—the wrong way. In Cabarrus, an anti economic development incentive contingent on the county’s Board of Commissioners was voted out and replaced with commissioners in favor of tax incentives.

“As I have worked with multiple economic development projects throughout our region over the past 25 years, I have learned that incentives are usually necessary to draw the quality projects. OMB is just that for our town as it comes at a critical time to a part of our town that is ripe for development for this industry type.  The town must do its part to assure that quality commercial and industrial companies locate in our town to do business and provide jobs,” said Mayor Pro Tem Woody Washam.

OMB would be part of the town’s economic development strategy downtown, which includes a new $4 million-plus Arts Center.

There are apparently no hearings scheduled for an economic incentive grant for OMB on the Mecklenburg County level, according to Commissioner Jim Puckett.

Still to be determined is the actual size of the new brewery. OMB and a large number of other craft breweries are seeking to alter state law which currently caps the amount of beer a brewery can produce annually before having to retain an outside wholesale distributor. That limit is currently set at 25,000 barrels of beer.

If the state legislature lifts the cap, OMB plans to spend as much as $7 million on the Cornelius expansion, hiring as many as 100 workers. Without a change in the cap, a smaller brewery is likely to be built.

House Bill 67, which would increase the annual cap to 100,000 barrels was introduced in February by State Representative Michael Speciale of New Bern, and is currently under review by the Legislature’s Finance Committee.

Also at Monday’s meeting, the board will conduct a public hearing to consider a request from DB Automotive Real Estate Holdings to develop an automotive sales, service and storage center at 18837 Statesville Road/Highway 21.

OMB will be discussed at the Town Board meeting at 7 pm Monday at Cornelius Town Hall on Catawba Avenue.