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Haywood proposes incentives for green business

Economic development officials have adopted a policy that will give business incentives to clean, renewable energy projects that locate in Haywood County.

County officials hope the policy will convince green businesses to locate in the region, as well as provide a justification for giving incentives to businesses that don’t create many jobs.

Incentives will be given to solar, wind and hydropower energy projects that generate more than 50 kilowatts of energy. Projects that make use of landfills, brown-field sites, rooftops and other locations with minimal economic value will qualify for an 80 percent break on property taxes over a five-year period. Projects not located on those sites can receive a maximum of 60 percent in incentives.

Officials hope the incentives will make the county more attractive to prospective green businesses.

“Everyone wants to go where they feel welcome,” pointed out County Commissioner and Economic Development Commission board member Mark Swanger.

“If we can put this up on our Web site, we may attract other businesses of that same ilk or nature,” agreed Waynesville Mayor and EDC Board Member Gavin Brown.

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The policy comes weeks after scrutiny over the decision by county commissioners to grant business incentives to FLS Solar Energy, a company that plans to build a solar energy farm on an old paper mill landfill in Canton.

The county granted FLS a five-year, 80 percent break on its business property taxes, saving the company $32,000. However, the entire project would only create about 12 jobs, and those would come during construction.

“(The current policy) leaves it open for anyone coming in and saying, you did it for XYZ, will you do it for me?” said Swanger.

The new policy addresses that issue.

“(The policy) is being developed in recognition that while developments of clean, renewable energy sources ... (may) not provide as many permanent jobs as traditional economic development projects ... development of clean, renewable energy projects also provide many intrinsic benefits to the community that traditional economic development projects do not and require little public infrastructure or services,” it states.

For the few jobs that are created by these projects, the policy requires companies advertise and recruit in Haywood County.

County commissioners must approve the policy before it can be formally adopted.

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