by Sam Hieb
Guilford County Commissioners last night voted down a $1 million incentives request for RF Micro’s new microchip plant:
(C)ommissioners said it was difficult to give money to such a large company when small businesses were struggling. Others didn’t like that most of RF Micro’s investment would be in equipment, not buildings. Others mentioned the recently passed county budget, which raised property taxes for the sixth time in seven years.
“Our funds are limited are far as incentives go,” said Republican Linda Shaw.
Now, everybody must wait for the company’s decision.
“You may do this whether we give an incentive or not,” Democrat Kay Cashion said. “Maybe it’s a gamble.”
What struck me about last night’s debate was the way proponents of the incentives request kept talking about how lucky Guilford County was to have RF Micro. I’m certainly not saying that’s untrue, but is that the type of attitude a company should have when coming to taxpayers with its hand out?
But here’s the crazy part. When it looked like the vote would not be favorable, RF Micro pulled out one last ditch effort, bringing property consultant Patrick Zimmer to the podium. Zimmer proceeded to tell commissioners they even luckier than they knew to have the incentives request brought before them, because Greensboro and Guilford County initally “weren’t even on the radar screen” for this project. Durham was the only U.S. site under consideration, and the reason why it was eliminated is because “Durham County made an arbitrary decision that they would not provide infrastructure assistance….Durham gambled, and they did lose.”
I’m not sure that’s what Guilford’s commissioners needed to hear right before the vote. So they decided to gamble, too. In my view, it was a gamble worth taking.