It isn’t impossible to build a new poultry complex in North Carolina; Sanderson Farms proved it could get the job done earlier this decade in Kinston, North Carolina. But finding a home for a second complex in the Tar Heel State has proven to be a more challenging and elusive goal. Fayetteville, North Carolina's, Cedar Creek Business Center is the latest potential location for the proposed Sanderson broiler complex, but the courting process between the company and the local economic development group has cooled slightly as the NIMBY (not in my backyard) forces have rallied and begun to attend various public hearings.

A business center with no business

The Cedar Creek Business Center was formed eight years ago in Cumberland County, North Carolina, and it was annexed into the city of Fayetteville a year ago. There are no businesses located in the business center, but the city and county agreed on an economic development incentive package when the center was annexed by the city last year. The county has agreed to rebate half of any new property taxes for five years and the city will rebate 70 percent of any new property taxes for 10 years. With this agreement in place, the economic development staff went looking for businesses willing to locate at Cedar Creek.

The unemployment rate in Cumberland County rose in the Great Recession, but it didn’t peak until August of 2012 when it reached 11.2 percent. The City of Fayetteville’s unemployment rate peaked at 7.9 percent in the same month. The jobs problem in Cumberland County has eased somewhat, with the unemployment rate estimated at 8.2 percent in July of 2014, but this still exceeded the state average of 6.9 percent that month.  Understandably, bringing new jobs to Cumberland County is still an important consideration for economic developers.

Cedar Creek residents voice opposition

At public meeting this summer, some Cedar Creek residents have spoken out in opposition to the prospect of a chicken plant being built in the business center. As a 17 year resident of North Carolina, I have taken more than a passing interest in these developments. In November of 2012, Sanderson abandoned Nash County as the possible site of its next North Carolina plant. NIMBY forces there were successful at tying up Nash County in a series of lawsuits, none of which prevailed, but these delaying tactics were enough to convince Sanderson to look elsewhere.

Will the delaying tactics that worked in Nash County be successfully employed in Cumberland County? So far the Cedar Creek NIMBY forces have managed to persuade the Cumberland County Commissioners to put off a vote on accepting the county’s portion of the economic incentives that have been proposed for the Sanderson plant.

The Fayetteville City Council is in favor of the economic development plan. “I think the leaders in Fayetteville have to analyze how we do economic development,” said Fayetteville City Councilman Mitch Colvin. “I don’t think the city and county are on the same page.”

Economic incentives versus NIMBY

If the battle were just between the uses of tax incentives to lure businesses versus the forces of NIMBY, I would wish they would both lose. I think governments should get out of the way and let the free markets determine where businesses reside, and any tax breaks should be offered to all businesses, both old and new. However, since governments have gotten into the game of trying to lure businesses with tax breaks, then I think a poultry company should be just as entitled to the tax incentives as any other business would be.

I have almost no sympathy for NIMBY arguments, unless they involve recent zoning changes which are out of character for the neighborhood. One of the NIMBY arguments against a Sanderson processing facility being built in the Cedar Creek Business Park centers on wastewater treatment, and based on Sanderson’s track record in this area, it is a complete non-starter.

I served for several years on USPOULTRY’s Clean Water Awards committee and had the opportunity to see how Sanderson Farms operates its wastewater treatment facilities at a couple of locations. They always use spray fields rather than directly discharging into bodies of water. They have a great track record for compliance and the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NC DENR) is no pushover when it comes to setting treatment limits. NC DENR has experience with Sanderson’s treatment system in Kinston and will know how to set standards for a Cedar Creek plant.