Food facility at port to be discussed


A long-discussed port project might soon be moving forward.

Chuck Schoninger, president and CEO of USA InvestCo, said the N.C. Ports Authority’s board of directors could take up a lease agreement at its January meeting that could bring a facility to the Port of Wilmington and create new jobs.

The project, dubbed Project Penguin, is being financed by Wilmington-based USA InvestCo, an investment firm that raises capital from international interest for U.S. projects using the Employment Based Program No. 5, where for a minimum of $500,000 invested, out-of-the-country investors are granted green cards to move their families to the U.S.

Schoninger said he could not discuss the particular details of his project that is up to come before the ports board in January.

N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler discussed the project during a meeting earlier this month with the Crop Protection Association of N.C., an Apex-based advocacy group, according to a video of his talk.

To the group, he described it as a project to ship frozen North Carolina poultry and meat products to China, according to the video, a copy of which was sent to the Greater Wilmington Business Journal.

“We think that it will be a big advantage to that port,” Troxler said in the video, adding that state farmers and military operations are currently shipping their goods and equipment to ports in Charleston, S.C. and Norfolk. “Why do we want to give all these jobs and port taxes to another state … when we’ve got that infrastructure right here?”

Troxler added the firm wants to begin operations by 2014 in a 75,000-square-foot facility at the Port of Wilmington.

Brian Long, N.C. Department of Agriculture spokesman, confirmed Thursday that the video was Troxler talking to N.C. Crop Protection Association members during a training session.

Long said Troxler was invited to discuss international trade and agricultural exports when the commissioner mentioned the possible Wilmington port project.

While not the lead agency steering the project, the state agricultural department has been monitoring the project for months, Long said.

“We do see some benefits to our agricultural exports ability,” Long said. “We’re always looking for ways to boost North Carolina agriculture exports.”