Greensboro council approves $20M incentives for Publix distribution center

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Greensboro City Council approves up to $20 million in incentives to bring a Publix distribution center to the east side of the city as council selects a new chief executive to replace City Manager Jim Westmoreland.

David Parrish is receiving a promotion from assistant city manager to interim city manager, replacing his boss, City Manager Jim Westmoreland, who is retiring at the end of the month.

Greensboro City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday evening to appoint Parrish to the city’s top executive position effective April 1.

david parrish
David Parrish

Parrish received his master’s in public administration from UNCG in 2005. Prior to being hired by the city of Greensboro in 2012, Parrish served as a management analyst for the city of Danville, Va., town manager of Yanceyville and then deputy city manager in Danville. As assistant city manager in Greensboro, Parrish oversaw the field operations, engineering and inspections, planning, Guilford Metro 911, water resources, transportation and fire departments. Parrish will receive a salary of $171,538 with a monthly allowance of $1,000.

Westmoreland, who announced his retirement on March 2, returned to the city after a three-year hiatus to serve as deputy city manager in October 2012. After City Manager Denise Turner Roth accepted an appointment from President Obama to serve as administrator of the US General Services Administration, Westmoreland was hired as city manager in Greensboro. After beginning his career with the engineering firm Kimley-Horn & Associates in 1988, Westmoreland joined the NC Transportation Department, serving as an urban traffic engineer and state signing engineer. In 1996, Westmoreland left state government to work for the city of Greensboro, working his way up from engineering and planning manager in the transportation department to assistant city manager of economic development services. In 2009, he shuttled back to the NC Transportation Department to serve as deputy secretary for transit.

The final stretch of Westmoreland’s tenure with the city has been shadowed by questions about the veracity of his statements about the supposed need for public parking decks supporting two hotel projects in downtown Greensboro. The day Westmoreland announced his retirement, the News & Record reported that the city was unable to produce an internal review cited in an affidavit in which the city manager wrote that the Greensboro Department of Transportation “conducted an internal review of the previous [2010] parking study and concluded that the findings, recommendations and future parking deficit needs identified in the past study remained accurate.”

Westmoreland said in an email to council members the following day that he read the article with “some disappointment,” noting that “it questions both the honesty and integrity of statements I made in my official affidavit” involving a lawsuit filed against the city by the owners of the Cone Denim Entertainment Center. Westmoreland wrote, “This was strictly an internal review of the past 2010 study by GDOT. This means they simply reviewed the past study, determined that no conditions had changed since the past study was performed in 2010 (i.e. the city had not added any new parking decks or off-street parking lots since 2010, no major employers or businesses had left downtown since 2010, but based on the parking requests of downtown businesses and the new hotel project, off-street parking demands were increasing), so the needs and parking deficits identified in the 2010 parking deck location study remained in 2015. In addition, this internal review was not a new study by GDOT and did not produce any new or additional work products.”

During the meeting on Tuesday, Councilwoman Nancy Hoffmann expressed satisfaction in the cultivation of leadership talent in the city manager’s office.

“I think two of the best things that Denise Turner Roth did for us during her period as city manager was to recruit both Jim and David to Greensboro,” she said.

As expected, the city council also voted unanimously to approve a $20 million incentive package to bring a Publix Super Markets regional distribution center to a location off Burlington Road on the east side of Greensboro. In exchange for the assistance, the Florida-based grocer would invest up to $400 million in a 1.8 million square foot refrigerated and dry goods warehouse, and create 1,000 new jobs paying an average salary of $42,000.

The resolution approved by city council calls for annual payments to the company based on an agreement to create 500 new jobs by Dec. 31, 2023, 222 jobs the following year and 278 jobs the year after that. The city would pay the company from $14.6 million to $17.7 million based on property taxes generated by the project, equivalent to 80 percent of added revenue from property taxes. The proposed site for the distribution center is currently located outside the city, and payment of the incentives is contingent on a future city council approving annexation of the property in 2022. The city also agrees to reimburse the company $3 million for water and sewer lines. The resolution states that if the city fails to invest $400 million or create 1,000 jobs, the city may “claw back” the incentive grant by withholding annual payments. The resolution also requires the company to pay back any money the city spends on water and sewer lines if it fails to select Greensboro for the new facility or fails to complete the project.

“A thousand jobs really doesn’t come along too often at an average wage of $42,000,” Mayor Nancy Vaughan said. “That would be a remarkable thing for our employees here in Greensboro and Guilford County. And I can’t remember the last time we had a $400 million investment. Imagine what that will do for us. Not only when Publix makes that kind of investment in a community, it makes other employers look around and think: Well, if Publix is interested in Greensboro and Guilford County, well maybe we should be interested as well.

Vaughan emphasized that the incentives approved by city council are performance based.

“And in this particular case, once Phase I is done, that’s when these incentives kick in,” she said. “That means that Publix will have actually had to have built their building and hired their first 500 people and have started paying those people before they get their first incentives check. I think a lot of people think we offer an incentive, we pass it and then sometime in the first couple months we start writing checks. And that really doesn’t happen. These checks won’t be written for years. Publix has to agree to come and they are the first ones who make an investment in our community.”

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