Orange County often loses out to nearby Wake and Durham counties when recruiting businesses.
At 85.8 cents per $100 of property value, Orange County has the highest property tax rate in the area. Durham County’s rate is 74.4 cents, and Wake County comes in at 53.4 cents.
And real estate in Orange County is limited, especially in downtown Chapel Hill.
Dwight Bassett, economic development officer for Chapel Hill, said the town does not spend a lot of time recruiting businesses because of the shortage of space.
“Our retail and office space markets don’t have the capacity to accommodate a lot of growth right now,” he said. “Until we have a greater supply, we just help people who express interest in locating here.”
Wake County has the advantage of being home to part of the Research Triangle Park — a world-famous center that draws many biotech and pharmaceutical companies to the county.
“Often, businesses are already sold on moving to Raleigh,” said Wake County Economic Development Project Manager Michael Haley. “We have a brand that people understand.”
And both Wake and Durham Counties regularly offer economic incentives to companies moving to the area — which Orange County has only recently begun doing.
He said Orange County’s only incentive thus far was a $100,000 grant to manufacturer AKG of America Inc. in Mebane.
Business incentives are comparable to university scholarships, said Brent Lane, director of the Carolina Center for Competitive Economies.
“They’re effective, but sometimes you don’t know if they’re necessary — a business could be planning on moving here and not even need the incentive,” he said.
And County Commissioner Bernadette Pelissier said Orange County has other strengths that draw business to the area, like great schools and educated workforce.
Brantley said upcoming mixed-use developments, combined with an openness to offering incentives, suggest good things for the county’s business climate.
“Orange County is not only open for business, we are actively engaged in recruiting and promoting new business,” Brantley said.
“We want people to be able to live here and work here, instead of commuting to Raleigh.”
Contact the desk editor at email@example.com.