Gov may put IOW in zone

Published 8:53 am Friday, February 12, 2010

FRANKLIN—Isle of Wight County Supervisor Phillip Bradshaw said top state officials, including Gov. Bob McDonnell, support having a portion of his county added to an enterprise zone in neighboring Franklin and Southampton County.

Bradshaw, who represents the Carrsville District, said that since last week he has met with McDonnell, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and Secretary of Commerce and Trade Jim Cheng to discuss the enterprise zone. He and other county officials want a 6.37-square-mile area of southern Isle of Wight, which includes the International Paper Co. mill, added to the Franklin-Southampton zone.

“I’m very positive that we will have that site added to the enterprise zone, unless something comes up that would prevent them from being able to do that,” Bradshaw said Thursday. “I’m not a legal expert or an expert on the process, but I believe the governor can do that through his administrative power.”

The enterprise zones are administered through the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. Localities are required to offer incentives, in addition to those offered by the state.

Bradshaw said DHCD told local economic development officials that Isle of Wight could not be added to the enterprise zones because the county did not qualify for the designation, and had not applied for it either. The deadline to apply had passed before the Oct. 22 announcement that IP would close the mill.

“If we go through the normal channels, we’re going to be told no,” Bradshaw said. “That’s exactly what (Franklin Southampton Economic Development Inc. President and CEO John) Smolak and (Isle of Wight County Director of Economic Development Lisa) Perry have been told, that Isle of Wight could not become a part of it, and that (the zone) could not be amended. And Southampton County had been told as recently as a couple of weeks ago.”

Bradshaw added, “I’m not one to take ‘no’ for an answer too lightly. I’ve pursued it. I’m working on an administrative process through the governor’s office and through the Department of Commerce (and Trade). The governor is very positive. Secretary Cheng is very positive. I’m looking forward to them moving forward. They told me they would do whatever they could to get us added to it. They think it needs to be done, that it needs to be part of that enterprise zone.”

Franklin Mayor Jim Councill said he believes the city would support Isle of Wight’s request to be added to the enterprise zone.

“The City of Franklin would certainly support them and, if we were asked to, endorse their consideration,” Councill said Thursday. “It only makes us all stronger and makes the region better for them to be able to do that. We would be much in favor of that. There’s everything to gain and nothing to lose by it.”

A 1986 agreement between Franklin and Isle of Wight County guarantees the city a percentage of tax revenues from the 6.37-square-mile area of southern Isle of Wight. In exchange, the city agreed to never annex the area.

Under the revenue-sharing agreement, Franklin’s percentage is adjusted every 10 years. It currently is 18 percent, according to Bradshaw. Payments to Franklin have averaged about $1.2 million in recent years.

Five geographic areas, two in Southampton and three in Franklin, were designated as enterprise zones by the state last year. The zones in Southampton County include the Southampton Business Park and the Turner Tract industrial area. Franklin’s zones are the Pretlow Industrial Park, Downtown Franklin and the Armory Drive area. The enterprise zones currently total about 3,544 acres.