ST. PAULS — More than 700 acres are for sale — to a buyer who is interested in progress.
“An industrial park down the road is what we had hoped for,” said Larry McGougan, who along with Johnny, Edward and Darryl Odum purchased the land on N.C. 20 in 1994. “Jobs are the biggest thing. We’d like to get jobs back in St. Pauls, because that’s the only way the town’s ever going to grow.”
Progress Park, near Interstate 95 and Exit 31, was designed to “take advantage of the strategic location” of the interstate, as well as N.C. 20 and U.S. 74, according to Stuart Turille, town administrator.
“We’re midway between New York and Miami, an hour and a half from Raleigh, two hours from Charlotte, two hours from the port of Wilmington, three hours from the deep water port of Charleston,” he said. “There aren’t many places that can make that claim, or have that transportation access.”
McGougan said the site has seen some interest from industries, some of whom were rejected because they were not “clean” or “suitable” for the location.
“What we’re looking forward to is a small distribution center or manufacturing center,” he said.
Others, he said, have just not been able to get the money together to purchase the a parcel of the park and begin building — a sign of the times that Greg Cummings, Robeson County’s industrial developer, has seen far too often.
“We’re in a global market, and as a global market you’ve got a global recession,” he said, “and it’s one of the most horrible recessions that this nation, and the world, has been in since World War II.
“The positive, though, is that we are ready. We’ve got the interstate and training dollars in place. In a 30-mile radius of that site, you’ve 30,000 people so you’ve got a labor source. They’re also looking at a county and municipality that’s business friendly.”
Cummings said the site is one of six in Robeson County that are certified, meaning it’s move-in ready.
“Basically, if a company’s looking to move in, they should be able to start building within a 90-day period,” he said.
Cummings is marketing the site at the website of Robeson County’s Office of Economic Development, at the North Carolina Department of Commerce, and North Carolina Southeast Partnership, a regional economic development team. A website, at http://www.stpaulsnci95industrialpark.org/, is linked to that of the town of St. Pauls.
“We’re hoping that because of its location, that it will market itself,” Turille said. “That once we get the word out that it’s here, they will comprehend the transportation advantage.”
Cummings said he thinks the park is “definitely in a good location.
“We’re looking at land that can go with a large or small-type industry,” he said, “whether they need 100 acres, or if they need 10 acres.”
Turille said he hopes to see the park utilized by industries that otherwise wouldn’t take advantage of the town’s current vacancies, buildings that did house textile mills and have a limited “modern application” because of low ceiling height and columns that are spread throughout.
The park would also generate new property tax revenue, but Turille said that is a small part of the picture.
“Fifty percent of it is, there’s people who grow up here all their lives, and we would like to have a diversified economy — a holistic economy, so if people want to live and work here, and have good jobs, and can raise their family, that they can do it here,” Turille said. ” They don’t have to drive to Fayetteville, they don’t have to drive to Lumberton. We’re trying to think of ways to make this a self-contained community that to some degree can meet everybody’s needs.”
“It’s ready to go, the doors are open,” he said.