SHALLOTTE — A New York-based energy acquisitions company announced Wednesday that its subsidiary will manufacture and assemble refrigerated transportation vehicles in Shallotte.
NEAH Transportation Holdings Inc., part of Newco Energy Acquisition Holdings (NEAH) Energy, will expand its presence in the Shallotte Business Park, located along N.C. Highway 130.
NEAH Transportation will team up with Torus Energy Group, which specializes in the development of energy efficient, large cold storage facilities, to create refrigerated transport vehicles powered by solar energy and natural gas.
While NEAH Transportation’s existing operational footprint is 23,000 square feet at the business park, Steve Kehrer, the company’s chief operating officer, said the firm plans to make Shallotte its East Coast logistics hub and will grow its facility by another 227,000 square feet over the next three years and create 250 new jobs in the process.
The firm currently employs 14 and plans to hire 16 new workers by the end of the year, Kehrer said.
He said the facility was expected to roll out its first truck early first quarter of 2013.
“We are looking for another 15-20 acres to expand,” Kehrer said. “All of the equipment and materials we use will come from American companies. This is a technology-based industry, and we’re excited to be in Shallotte.”
Kehrer said the firm did not request financial incentives from the state or Brunswick County and has spent $7 million on the Shallotte venture.
Karl Miller, chairman of NEAH Energy, said the area’s educated workforce and access to U.S. Highway 17 played a major role in helping land the green manufacturer to the area.
Company officials, however, do not plan to use the ports of Wilmington or Morehead City to distribute their line of refrigerated trucks to its growing South American client base. Instead, the firm will use Charleston, S.C. and Hampton Roads, Va. Ports that are dredged deeper and able to accommodate larger container ships, Kehrer said.
“We plan to reach out to Brunswick and Cape Fear community colleges to help us with training,” Miller said. “Being in Shallotte will allow us to easily ship our products to our desired destinations.”
NEAH Energy, an acquisition company formed to acquire energy and energy-related assets and companies, has had its eye on southeastern North Carolina for some time.
In September, the firm announced it was looking to acquire more than 500,000 square feet of industrial space for future manufacturing ventures across the region.
As for the refridgerated transportation project, Miller said grocery retailers industry-wide are losing between 10 and 27 percent of its transported grocery inventory to spoilage – mostly because the trucks carrying their product goods are ill equipped to handle such transport, costing grocers millions of dollars.
“Refrigerated trucks containing food and other goods that need to be kept cold have some constraints that can be a challenge for a trucking company,” Miller said. “This provides us a substantial opportunity to manufacture a new class of energy- and thermal-efficient trucks for the food service industry and capture significant global share.”
Jim Bradshaw, Brunswick County Economic Development Commission executive director, said the firm’s announcement ended more than six months of site selections and visits with the county and town of Shallotte.
He said NEAH’s job announcement was good news for a county whose unemployment rate, while falling, remains higher than state and national averages at 9.5 percent in October.
“This is great news for Brunswick County,” Bradshaw said, surrounded by Brunswick County and Shallotte officials. “This is going to have a major impact on Shallotte’s economy.”
Sarah McCullough, mayor of the town of Shallotte, agreed.
“If you ride through this industrial park, you see a lot of businesses that didn’t make it through the recession,” she said. “We are so thrilled to have a company that is going to be a big boost to our economy and be a draw for not just Shallotte, but Brunswick and Columbus counties.”