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Bless our hearts as Edmund Burke quoted: The only thing necessary for the triump of evil is for good men(and women) to...

Grant program reaps big benefits for city

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Developers are converting the old Coca-Cola Bottling plant at 630 S. Pitt Street into a brewery and apartments with an adjacent restaurant.

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Shannon Keith

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Greenville is getting a big return on its investment in small businesses in the city.

Since 2013, Greenville’s Office of Economic Development has helped businesses obtain more than $500,000 through North Carolina’s Rural Economic Development Division Building Reuse Grant program. The program provides grants to local governments to assist businesses with renovating vacant buildings or expanding an existing business.

“The city obtains the grant on behalf of the businesses,” Greenville’s Economic Development Liaison Christian Lockamy said. “The amount of the grant is based on the number of full-time positions, and the businesses must invest at least double the amount of the grant in renovations.”

The grant requires a 5 percent match from the city, which is included in the city’s annual budget to promote economic development in Greenville. The City Council also must pass a resolution supporting the grant applications for each business, Lockamy said.

“This shows the state that the city is showing support for the businesses,” Lockamy said. “It also shows that the city is willing to meet the required 5 percent grant.”

To date, the city has helped businesses obtain about $550,000 in grants through the program. The city’s investment through matchings funds is about $25,000, Lockamy said.

“Once the city committed to promoting economic development, this grant was something we started going after,” Lockamy said. “It has been paying off.”

Businesses receiving grants have created more than 90 full-time jobs through the program, Lockamy said. Most of the positions pay an annual salary of more than $30,000 a year, and many are providing medical benefits as well, he said.

“That’s just the full-time positions that we keep track of through the program,” Lockamy said. “There also have been a large number of part-time jobs as well. The people that get these jobs are spending that money here in Greenville, which creates a ripple effect through the local economy.”

The buildings that are being renovated also increase substantially in value, creating additional revenue for the city in property taxes, Lockamy said. Additional city revenues also will be created through sales taxes at those businesses, he said.

“The city gets its investment back in almost no time,” Lockamy said. “You take a building that has been sitting unused for years and turn it into a business that is providing jobs and services in the community ... that’s what this program was designed to do.”

Lockamy said that these businesses also encourage additional investments in surrounding properties.

“Again it’s the ripple effect,” Lockamy said. “We are seeing this along the Dickinson Avenue corridor right now. After businesses started opening there, more businesses wanted to locate in that area.”

The Uptown Brewery Co., 418 Evans St., was approved for a $60,000 Building Reuse Grant last year. More than $460,000 is being invested in the building on Evans Street that was vacant for almost 30 years.

“We took a building that has sat here for years and turned it into something nice,” co-owner Donald Dunn said. “The people in Greenville’s Office of Economic Development were great during the grant process. ... They are really committed to seeing this area thrive.”

Last week, the City Council approved resolutions supporting grant applications for two new businesses — the Pitt Street Brewing Co. at 630 S. Pitt St. and the Luna Pizza Café at 632 S. Pitt St. — located in the old Coca-Cola Building that is undergoing renovation.

The Pitt Street Brewing Co., which is applying for a $112,500 grant, will be a full-production brewery with a canning line for regional distribution. The company will create at least nine full-time jobs with health insurance and an annual salary averaging $32,000 a year. The property owner is investing more than $500,000 in improvements. The city’s matching funds — if approved by City Council — would be $5,625.

Luna Pizza Café, which is applying for a grant of between $20,000 to $50,000, will be a 49-seat upscale authentic craft pizza café. The business will create between four to seven jobs with an average salary of $32,000 a year. The city’s matching funds — if approved by the City Council — would be between $1,000 and $2,500.

Lockamy said the City Council is expected to vote to accept the grants on behalf of the businesses next month. Several additional businesses will be applying for grants later this year, he said.

“This program is a win-win for everyone involved,” Lockamy said. “This is a minimum public investment that produces substantial returns through job creation, quality of life for residents through the services these businesses offer, and helps revitalize areas of the city.”

Contact Shannon Keith at skeith@reflector.com and 252-329-9575.

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