Some question millions in incentives to keep Smith's speedway
While some of the incentives approved to keep Bruton Smith from moving Lowe's Motor Speedway from Concord could benefit the larger community, the deal is another case of government aid to a company that threatened to leave North Carolina.
Smith agreed Wednesday to invest $100 million to $200 million in renovations and upgrades at the 47-year-old speedway. In return for the billionaire not building another speedway elsewhere in the Charlotte region, officials with Concord, Cabarrus County and the state of North Carolina agreed to provide about $80 million in incentives.
Most of that would come through road improvements, with a half-cent increase in the county sales tax as one possible source of money for the projects.
Details about the incentives and speedway improvements are to be released Monday. Smith couldn't be reached for comment Friday.
Depending on how much Smith spends on construction, the speedway could see as much as $12 million in local tax breaks, based on a reduction of local property taxes by 85 percent over five years, as other companies have received. Once the tax credits expire, Concord and Cabarrus County could receive $2 million to $3 million a year in new tax revenue.
The bulk of incentives, however, are expected to come in road construction - extensions, widenings and realignments - near the speedway. County residents also will use those roads, but the improvements didn't emerge as possibilities until Smith threatened to close the speedway.
"This probably helps to speed some of that development," said state Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, R-Concord.
Rob Thompson of the N.C. Public Interest Research Group, a research and advocacy group in Raleigh, said new roads are better than cash grants and tax breaks, but that "we shouldn't be reactive to threats about moving."
"It's just the wrong way to approach economic development," he said. ThatsRacin