IW supervisors approve ‘enterprise zone’ expansion

Published 4:33 pm Friday, October 21, 2022

Isle of Wight County supervisors have approved expanding the “enterprise zone” the county shares with Southampton County and the city of Franklin by 670 acres.

With the supervisors’ unanimous vote on record, the proposed expansion will head to Virginia’s Department of Housing and Community Development for final approval. If approved, businesses that agree to invest $100,000 or more in the designated areas will become eligible to receive state and local economic development incentives.

The county currently has 2,438 acres spread across two “sub zones,” one encompassing phases two and three of the Shirley T. Holland Industrial Park in Windsor and the other bordering the city of Franklin near International Paper’s mill.

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Isle of Wight County Economic Development Director Chris Morello proposed the 670-acre expansion in September, 519 acres of which would encompass the Franklin Regional Airport and an adjacent industrial park. The remaining 151 acres would be located on the opposite side of Route 460 from the Cost Plus World Market distribution facility just outside the town limits of Windsor.

According to Morello, businesses that invest $100,000 or more to rehabilitate or expand an existing structure in an enterprise zone, or at least $500,000 to build new, can qualify for a state “real property investment grant” of up to $100,000 per building or facility, or up to $200,000 if investing at least $5 million.

Businesses investing in an enterprise zone can also qualify for for a state “job creation grant,” which provides up to $500 per year per net new permanent, full-time position, provided the company creates at least four new full-time jobs paying at least 175%  of the federal minimum wage with health benefits. Companies that create jobs paying at least 200% of the federal minimum wage with health benefits can qualify for up to $800 per year per net new permanent, full-time position.

Isle of Wight offers its own local version of the job grant, which pays an additional $500 per job per year for up to 20 new full-time positions, provided the jobs pay at least 150% of the federal minimum wage. The county further offers to waive permit fees and fast-track the permitting process.

For companies pledging to invest at least $1 million in new machinery and tools, Isle of Wight also offers a 25% rebate on machinery and tools taxes.

“Developers make choices based on where they can find savings on the front end,” Morello said.

Prior to the vote, the supervisors held a public hearing on the matter, which drew only one speaker: Realtor John Rector of Suffolk. Rector – speaking on behalf of the Hollowell family, which owns one of the Windsor area parcels that would be added – advocated support for the expansion.

“This additional expansion is really key to ongoing development if we’re going to be successful and continue to roll out and welcome new businesses,” said Supervisor Dick Grice, confirming with Morello that the existing acreage forming Isle of Wight’s enterprise sub-zones does not subtract land now known to contain wetlands.

In 2018, a study by the engineering firm Kimley-Horn determined much of the Shirley T. Holland park’s proposed third phase to be wetlands based on the prevalence of loblolly pine trees, which the Army Corps of Engineers had reclassified as a wetlands plant in 2012.

According to Morello, expanding Isle of Wight’s sub-zones will require “proof of endorsement and agreement” from Franklin and Southampton County, though neither of the neighboring localities are required to hold their own public hearings before issuing such a determination.