Two-County Industrial Park Already Drawing Looks

In late 2007 and early 2008, North Carolina’s Southeast facilitated meetings among several organizations to discuss the potential for creating a multi-county industrial park close to the Port of Wilmington. Leaders in Brunswick and Columbus counties are now working in earnest to iron out legal and administrative hurdles in order to move ahead with development of a unique two-county industrial park. North Carolina law requires multi-jurisdictional parks to be owned by either units of government or non-profit entities, explains Justin S. Smith, director of the Columbus County Economic Development Commission. “We’re organizing a non-profit board that will control the industrial park,” says Mr. Smith, who presented sketches and design plans of the park at an intergovernmental meeting held in late November. Boards of commissioners in both counties have now approved articles of incorporation and bylaws for the park’s governing entity, he adds.

Multi-jurisdictional industrial parks receive favorable treatment from the state regarding incentive eligibility for companies locating there, with more prosperous counties such as Brunswick able to tap the same benefits as those available to less wealthy neighbors. But there are other reasons the 1,100-acre park will be an attractive destination for industrial operations, especially those involving distribution, assembly or trade. It will sit just 16 miles from the Port of Wilmington.

With legal paperwork soon to be finalized, county officials are turning their attention to identifying a developer for the park, which they hope to announce in the spring of 2008, according to Jim Bradshaw, executive director of economic development in Brunswick County. “We’re now pursuing North Carolina Rural Center and Golden LEAF grants to fund the infrastructure we’ll need,” says Mr. Bradshaw. He and other leaders are also talking to N.C. Department of Transportation planners about highway access to the park. “If all goes well, the park should be operational by late 2010,” Mr. Bradshaw says. But he also notes that two firms have already expressed interest in the property. “That would certainly expedite the park considerably.” He and Mr. Smith are both looking forward to working with state and regional partners and allies in marketing the park once development is complete. “The inspiration for this exciting initiative has come from North Carolina’s Southeast, which has been a vocal advocate for industrial product development in the region,” says Mr. Bradshaw.