More grocery stores could be coming to “special-emphasis” neighborhoods like Greater Sullivan, Arcadia Hills and West Greenville thanks to a major overhaul of the city of Greenville’s business-license collection.
Greenville City Council is voting to establish a program that would offer incentives for certain new businesses, including grocery stores in historically minority and low-income neighborhoods.
The program passed the first of two readings at the City Council meeting Monday night.
The targeted business license and building permit rebate grant program would offer five-year, 100% business license rebate to new businesses, including:
- Artists in the Central Business District downtown, the West End and the Village of West Greenville
- Retail in the CBD and the West End
- Manufacturing business
- Corporate headquarters
- Grocery stores in special-emphasis neighborhoods
- Any commercial annexation
Existing businesses in those categories that are currently paying business license fees would also receive a 50% rebate for the next five years.
The city has the opportunity to establish the incentives thanks to changes in state law, or the Business License Standardization Act passed in 2020.
Greenville the sole SC city to develop new incentives, mayor says
Business licenses — or excise taxes levied for conducting business within city limits — go to fund city services like the police department, the fire department and public works.
Those revenues make up about a quarter of Greenville’s General Fund budget over the last 10 years, the city reported. Without business license funds, the city would need to increase property tax rates over 40%, staff said.
With the new standardization act, the city will have to establish a new rate structure to keep revenue at or below 2020 levels while changing how it has set its rates, according to a city presentation.
And while every municipality in the state must comply with the new legislation, Greenville is the only city that has seized the opportunity to develop an economic development incentive, Mayor Knox White said.
“A lot of these things have been around a long time, and we’re expanding them,” White said Monday night. “I don’t know anybody else doing that.
“To provide actual tax reductions for so many people, it really shows we mean business when we talk about promoting our corridors — like Wade Hampton and Stone and Augusta, all of those — and certainly special needs such as grocery stores in certain neighborhoods.”
New business license would reduce fees for 8,000 Greenville businesses
The new proposed rate structure would reduce business license fees by $205 on average for more than 8,000 licensed businesses in the city, or 85% of businesses, city budget director Matt Efird told City Council Monday.
About 1,400 businesses in the city, which is about 15%, would see an increase — an average of $1,270 per business, although the vast majority would see an increase of 10% or less, Efird told councilmembers.
Retail is the largest sector that would be impacted at 99.8%. Auto dealers would see a $21 increase.
Councilmembers approved first reading of the incentive program Monday but chose to delay the vote two weeks on the business license changes.
The intention is to allow city business owners and residents time to go through the proposed ordinance and ask any questions, according to councilmember John DeWorken, who proposed the delay at the meeting Monday.
The entire proposed ordinance that would change the city’s rate structure can be read online at greenvillesc.gov.
Greenville seeks to adopt citywide business incentives
A separate grant program is needed because the standardized model ordinance does not include some of the special provisions Greenville has previously established to attract and retain businesses, Efird said.
The proposed incentives could help attract new job creation and capital investment across multiple sectors, city staff said, with focus on key hubs like Augusta Street, Wade Hampton Boulevard and Stone Avenue.
Having an independent economic development ordinance allows the city greater flexibility, and it allows councilmembers and staff to address specific economic development needs, Efird said.
It also allows the city greater control over incentive payments and “tie-in to ensure investment and job creation targets are achieved,” according to the city presentation.
The incentive for grocery stores in special-emphasis neighborhoods garnered particular praise from attendees at the meeting Monday night.
“We know it’s harder for neighborhood residents in those special-emphasis neighborhoods to gain access to those healthy foods in an affordable and safe way, particularly when transportation is an issue,” said Sally Wills, executive director of LiveWell Greenville, a local health coalition. “We hope you will consider this proposal and think about the impact it will have in those neighborhoods.”
Greenville’s special-emphasis neighborhoods include:
- Greater Sullivan
- Green Avenue
- Greenline Spartanburg
- Haynie Sirrine
- Pleasant Valley
- Viola Street
- The West End
- West Greenville
Dot Russell, president of the Sterling neighborhood association, said she liked the idea of the grocery-store incentive. She just wants to see something that would work well with her neighborhood.
“If we get a store just to say we have a store, and everything in there is unaffordable, my neighbors are still in a food desert,” Russell said.
Macon Atkinson is the city watchdog reporter for The Greenville News. She’s powered by long runs and strong coffee. Follow her on Twitter @maconatkinson.