Lumina News file photo
James S. “Chip” Mahan, III, photographed in May 2007 for the Wrightsville Beach Magazine Entrepreneurs Brunch.
A five-year deal to give a $250,000 grant to Live Oak Bank passed unanimously by Wilmington City Council, adding to the $325,000 approved by New Hanover County the day before.
A public hearing for the incentive deal drew several economic development leaders, including Scott Satterfield, Director of Wilmington Business Development.
“If the past is any predictor, I think we will have an incredible future,” Satterfield said, referring to the five-year-old company’s status as one of the fastest-growing banks in the country. He added that 80 percent of the company’s employees have been hired from New Hanover County.
Live Oak Bancshares, Inc. is seeking to expand its headquarters for its nCino division, which provides banking software around the country. The performance-based incentive is contingent on a $12 million capital investment during the first year, with a cumulative $16 million in investments by the fifth year of $50,000 annual grants from the city. In addition, the company is required to hire a minimum of 120 new staff with an average salary of $80,000 per year.
Founded in Wilmington in 2008, Live Oak is not a public bank, but instead focuses on small business loans to a range of medical professionals and independent financial advisors, as stated on its website. The privately-owned bank’s CEO, founder and chairman of its board is James S. “Chip” Mahan, III, whose background includes 10 years with Wachovia Bank, founding CEO positions with Cardinal Bancshares, S1 Corporation and CEO of First Network Bank. Live Oak’s President and COO is Neil Underwood, who also held an executive position at S1 before following his boss to the growing start-up company.
Scott Sullivan, of Cameron Management, Inc., also spoke in support of the deal, which he said will contribute to the diversity of the Wilmington area’s economy.
“Live Oak Bank fits in that diversity,” Sullivan said. “And we think that the economy of Wilmington has been resilient over the years because of that diversity.”
City councilmembers also praised the company. Councilmember Kevin O’Grady said, “It makes sense just on the numbers of the deal.”
Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo thanked Satterfield before the vote for, “helping to expand business here in our community.”
The council also denied an ordinance rezoning 5.96 acres at 4810 Randall Parkway from low-density to medium-density multi-family residential. The hearing was continued from the previous Sept. 3 meeting, at which only five councilmembers were present. Residents of the surrounding single-family residential parcels had filed a protest petition against the ordinance, which therefore would have required votes from a supermajority of at least six members of council to pass.
Representing the adjacent residents, local attorney Steve Coggins, of Rountree Losee, LLP, argued the city’s future land use plan held the “force of law” in forbidding the two zonings from existing side by side. O’Grady objected, countering that city council was granted flexibility under the plan, and that it was a “guide” rather than a legally-binding requirement.
Following a lengthy discussion between councilmembers and staff, the ordinance failed, with councilmember Laura Padgett and Mayor Pro Tem Earl Sheridan voting against the proposed 95-unit development.
Despite disagreeing with Coggins’ argument, Sheridan said he was “concerned with the density next to the established residents.”