Salisbury attorney Bill Graham playing key role in the study of preservation tax credits

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 15, 2013

SALISBURY — A Salisbury member of the N.C. Economic Development Board says even though state historic preservation tax credits are scheduled to sunset by Jan. 1, 2015, don’t count them out yet.
“It’s not a done deal that they’re going to go away,” says attorney Bill Graham, co-chairman of a community development subcommittee which has looked at the issue now for several months.
When a final state strategic plan is submitted in early 2014, the Economic Development Board probably will recommend a tweaking of the preservation incentives so they represent a better return on investment for taxpayers, Graham said.
The board’s recommendations also will be aimed at making sure the preservation tax credits are creating economic activity while also preserving historic structures, Graham said.
North Carolina has offered historic preservation tax credits on income-producing and residential historic properties since 1998.
As part of tax reform legislation passed in this year’s session of the General Assembly, the credits are scheduled to disappear after 2014.
As outlined in a Post story Dec. 8, the preservation incentives, which piggyback on federal preservation tax credits for commercial historic properties, have meant a lot to Rowan County, especially Salisbury.
Since 1998, the state’s preservation incentive program has been used on almost 50 Rowan County projects, representing a total investment of close to $21 million.
Since federal preservation tax credits became available in 1976, Rowan County saw 71 income-producing properties and 42 non-income producing homes take advantage of federal and/or state credits through 2012.
Those Rowan projects alone represented more than $30 million in investment.
Rowan County ranks 10th in the state in terms of investment connected to income-producing historic properties — many of which have been in downtown Salisbury — and fifth overall in the number of income-producing projects, behind only Buncombe, New Hanover, Wake and Craven counties.
Salisbury has had good representation on the N.C. Economic Development Board. Graham, a Republican gubernatorial candidate in 2008, was appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory, as was Bob Singer, a Greensboro attorney and former Salisbury resident.
N.C. Department of Cultural Resources Secretary Susan Kluttz is an ex-officio member of the board. Kluttz is a former Salisbury mayor and strong advocate for the state historic preservation tax credits.
Graham said the high-powered Economic Development Board has been taking a holistic approach on tax credits and whether they make sense.
They are one piece of a much larger picture, he emphasized of his committee’s and the board’s overall work.
The preservation tax credits are known, for example, to create temporary jobs in terms of construction, Graham noted, but his committee also has looked at how many permanent jobs are created.
Graham said the future of the preservation incentives ultimately will be up to the General Assembly, but he predicted they more than likely will be extended, though tweaked.
The Economic Development Board works under the N.C. Department of Commerce.
Besides Community Development, the other seven subcommittees contributing to the strategic plan have been Targeted Growth Clusters, Education and Workforce Development, Business Climate, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Talent and Retirement Attraction, Rural Prosperity and Structure (Delivery of Services) and Metrics of Success.
The board has met July 17, Sept. 5, Oct. 30 and Dec. 11.
Its chairman is John Lassiter, president of Carolina Legal Staffing, and a friend and political ally of McCrory’s.
The governor appoints 23 members to the board. There also are eight ex-officio members, four N.C. Senate members and four N.C. House members.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.