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Hatem's Empire Foods to open plant in Halifax County, create 200 jobs

Raleigh developer Greg Hatem announced today that his company Empire Foods will open a new food processing facility in Halifax County and create 200 jobs over the next five years.

Empire Foods is licensing technology from N.C. State University to produce food products that don’t require refrigeration, but maintain the flavor, color and nutrients of fresh food.

The company will invest $2.5 million and will lease a 35,000-square-foot production facility that is to be built by the county at the new Halifax Corporate Park.

The facility will produce fruits and vegetables, initially focusing on military and restaurant markets.

The project is getting a $400,000 grant from the One North Carolina Fund.

 

Great Schools in Wake Coalition urging people to come to March 20 forum

It's looking more like the upcoming Great Schools in Wake Coalition forum on March 20 will be rallying cry for diversity policy supporters before the March 23 Wake County school board vote on the community schools resolution.

In a press release today, GSIW is calling the event "an important fact-sharing forum that celebrates the strengths of our public schools and addresses the challenges to maintaining national leadership and high student achievement in Wake County." They're calling it the "Won't You Be My Neighbor" forum.

By bringing in speakers like educational researcher Richard Kahlenberg, author Gerald Grant, former Wake Superintendent Bill McNeal and former Wake magnet director Caroline Massengill, the message will be why it's important to have socioeconomically diverse schools.

Rep. Etheridge pushes $87 billion stimulus for job creation

With chronic joblessness dominating the economic debate, Rep. Bob Etheridge said this morning he plans to introduce a stimulus bill that would pay businesses to start hiring again.

Etheridge, a Democrat whose district includes portions of Wake, Johnston and Chatham counties, faces a November election in which the economy is almost certain to be the defining issue. He said this morning that a financial incentive would push businesses to accelerate hiring, which would stimulate economic recovery.

"The biggest cost for almost every business out there is labor," Etheridge said. "The missing piece in this economic recovery puzzle is to make labor costs manageable."

Rep. Etheridge pushes $87 billion stimulus for job creation

With chronic joblessness dominating the economic debate, Rep. Bob Etheridge said this morning he plans to introduce a stimulus bill that would pay businesses to start hiring again.

Etheridge, a Democrat whose district includes portions of Wake, Johnston and Chatham counties, faces a November election in which the economy is almost certain to be the defining issue. He said this morning that a financial incentive would push businesses to accelerate hiring, which in turn would stimulate economic recovery.

"The biggest cost for almost every business out there is labor," Etheridge said. "The missing piece in this economic recovery puzzle is to make labor costs manageable."

Empire's Greg Hatem wins CRE's Creative Thinkers Award for work in downtown Raleigh

Downtown Raleigh developer Greg Hatem has been given a "Creative Thinkers Award" by the Carolinas Chapter of The Counselors of Real Estate.

Hatem, president of Empire Properties, has bought and renovated dozens of downtown buildings and filled them with cafes, restaurants and bars, such as The Raleigh Times, The Duck & Dumpling and The Pit.

“Greg is a winner for his creative maneuvering around myriad obstacles in being a catalyst for downtown Raleigh redevelopment”, said Loren Kennedy, a CRE member and creator of the awards. “He has taken a path to becoming a restaurateur to enable him to fill ground floor spaces that were considered by experts to be un-leasable. He has orchestrated uncommon and highly complicated financing strategies that solved un-financeable deals."

Although Hatem and Empire's influence can be seen all over downtown, the developer has, it should be noted, not figured out a way around the credit crisis.

What have you done for me lately?

That appears to be the question being asked of developer Greg Hatem by the City Council. During today's meeting, the council will vote on whether to void an existing agreement that Hatem's company, Empire Properties, has with the city do develop a city-owned piece of property across from the new convention center. The move would essentially rebid the project, forcing Empire to compete with other developers for a project it previously won. In our story today, Hatem said he would probably walk away from the project rather than bid again.

Today's vote should be good political theater for lots of reasons.

1) Hatem and Empire have been instrumental in downtown's renewal in recent years. The company has renovated dozens of buildings, filling them with cafes, restaurants and bars. After giving repeated extensions to other developers in recent years, it would be noteworthy to say the least if the city lost patience with Hatem of all people.

2) Hatem is more than just a developer in downtown Raleigh. Most of the City Council attended his wedding last month, as did a good chunk of the city's Planning Department.

3 ) Developers frequently criticize the City Council for lacking business acumen. If the council rebids the project (known as Site #4), those criticisms could get even louder. City Manager Russell Allen says Empire does not have the financing to move ahead with its plans, and has no idea where that financing will come from in the future. Hatem notes in today's article that the lending environment is terrible and that city leaders are "naive if they think there are people who are lining up that can actually do this faster and better."

Allen states clearly that if the project is rebid the city still desires a project that has a unique design and a mix of retail, restaurant, hotel rooms and condos. That sort of project has become extremely difficult to finance, particularly if a developer is trying to build on land he or she doesn't already own.

So the question becomes: In voiding Empire's agreement and starting over, is the city moving the project along or just making sure nothing will get built on that site for an even longer time? 

 

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