It took just a matter of minutes at the top of a Monday special meeting for the Sampson Board of Commissioners to approve a tax incentive package in hopes of attracting another industry to the county.
For the past several months, Sampson County officials have been working with representatives of Farm Fresh Produce Packing Inc., which is considering an expansion of its sweet potato packing operations, including converting a 20,000-square-foot building into packing facilities and constructing a curing barn at 6370 Keener Road, Clinton.
Owned by Steven Ceccarelli, Farm Fresh Produce Inc. started in 2010 as a produce marketing/selling company with six employees and corporate offices in Faison. In 2015, Farm Fresh Produce Packing Inc. was established and a packing facility on Beaver Road in Sampson was opened for operation. Co-owned by Ceccarelli and Joe Dan Pope, the produce packing company has 25 employees seasonally, with between 100-150 containers of sweet potatoes shipped per week from the plant, approximately 90 percent of them overseas utilizing ports in Charleston, S.C., and Norfolk, Va.
Among potential locations, Ceccarelli is considering sites near those ports, as well as those near growing fields in Sampson, Wayne and Duplin counties.
On Monday, with no discussion other than assistant county manager Susan Holder taking commissioners through the highlights of the plan, the board unanimously approved offering incentives to Farm Fresh Produce Packing over a five‐year period should Sampson be selected as the site for the project. In return, the company will commit to make certain capital investments in the county and maintain certain levels of employment.
The performance-based incentive agreement would offer more than $70,000 in grant-back tax incentives to the company (50 percent of tax revenue), to be distributed in gradually descending amounts from $15,019 in year one to $13,525 in year five. The county would receive the full $123,695 in tax revenue from years 6-10, according to the incentives agreement.
That would be in return for Farm Fresh Produce Packing’s estimated taxable investment of $3.7 million. Before grant-back incentives, estimated property tax revenues would total $266,613 in the first 10 years. Additionally, the project would bring 36 full-time jobs with an average salary of $21,608.
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