The American Institute of CPAs has been working to mend fences with local officials in Durham, N.C., after the county manager threatened to pull a $400,000 subsidy package for the institute's relocation of its New Jersey headquarters.

"We're sure it will all work out in the end," AICPA spokesman Joel Allegretti told WebCPA. "This was just a miscommunication."

After a local newspaper, The Herald-Sun, quoted Allegretti in a July 20 article as saying that the economic incentives weren't the driving force behind the institute's decision to move, Durham County manager Mike Ruffin removed a vote to approve the subsidy plan from the July 24 agenda of the county board of commissioners. The paper quoted Ruffin, who explained the action by saying, "You shouldn't give people $400,000 if they're coming anyway."

In choosing a new home for more than 300 of its employees, the AICPA worked off a trio of essential criteria -- salary savings, human resources and quality of life -- eventually winnowing its options to three finalists. From that point, Allegretti said, financial incentives played a major role in AICPA leaders recommending last fall that the institute move the bulk of its operations to Durham.

The institute's been working to mend relations with the town before the county board's August meetings -- scheduled for Aug. 14 and 28 -- one of which will likely include a public hearing and vote on the incentive package.

In a July 23 article in The Virginian-Pilot, a newspaper based in Norfolk, Va., another finalist city for the institute's move, the AICPA stressed that the local economic incentives played a major role in making a final decision. And a few days earlier, under the headline, "AICPA loves Durham," The Herald-Sun ran a letter to the editor from the institute's senior vice president of finance and administration Anthony Pugliese. Pugliese, who has been overseeing the relocation, wrote, "Ultimately, we made the final decision to relocate to Durham because the competitive incentives offered by the state and county made it economically feasible for us to do so."

Ruffin has already told the local paper that the county should deliver on the incentives it promised as a matter of good faith.

The AICPA is also set to receive state subsidies worth up to $7 million, though the financial sweeteners from the county won't kick in until the institute invests $5 million on the local tax books. Renovations for the institute's office space in a corporate park are estimated at around $5.2 million, and a staggered move of some staff is expected to begin later this month. The county has said that it will reimburse the AICPA for up to $150,000 in documented relocation expenses, as well as another $1,000 in training expenses for each Durham County resident hired, to a maximum of $250,000.

Previously on WebCPA:

About 60 AICPA Staff to Make N.C. Move (Feb. 27, 2006)

Bulk of AICPA Operations Heading to N.C. (Oct. 26, 2005)

Inside View: Staffing State of Mind (Oct. 26, 2005)

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